Employer Mandate Delayed Again
TODAY IN ONE PARAGRAPH: Congressional Republicans try to capitalize today on the latest delays in Obamacare's employer mandate. The Treasury Department's decision to phase in the employer coverage requirement probably won't have much effect on coverage, but it does hand a new talking point to Republicans who have already said the law is bad for businesses and accused the administration of stretching its legal authority. Meanwhile, Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Elmendorf is back on Capitol Hill today and sure to face more questions about the health care law's effect on employment.
Top Health Care News
EMPLOYER MANDATE DELAY: The White House eased the requirement that businesses with over 50 employees provide health insurance to full-time workers (at least 30 hours per week) or face a penalty, which has already been delayed a year. The regulations state:
1. Businesses with 50-99 full-time workers will not be subject to the mandate until 2016.
2. Those with over 100 full-time workers must offer coverage to 70 percent of their full-time employees this year, and 95 percent after that.
3. Volunteers are not counted as full-time employees. (Sam Baker, National Journal)
In 2013, 99 percent of firms with 200+ employees offered health benefits; 91 percent of firms with 50-199 employees did, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
CBO RESPONDS TO CONTROVERSY REGARDING OBAMACARE JOBS REPORT: "Q: Will 2.5 Million People Lose Their Jobs in 2024 Because of the ACA? A: No, we would not describe our estimates in that way." (Catherine Hollander, National Journal)
Read the post from CBO Director Doug Elmendorf here.
HEALTHCARE.GOV DELAYS: Some parts of the ACA enrollment process will be offline this weekend, as the Social Security Administration performs annual maintenance on its IT systems, HHS announced in a blog post. The work will begin at 3 p.m. Friday, which is the last day to sign up for coverage beginning March 1. That means consumers who want to clear the deadline need to either complete their applications early or use a call center to finish up.
OBAMACARE ENROLLMENT OVER 412K IN NEW YORK: Two-thirds of those who signed up were previously uninsured, according to the New York State of Health. Officials said the state is on track to meet or exceed its goal of 1.1 million enrollees by the end of 2016. (Rebecca Shabad, The Hill)
STATES SHIFT NURSING HOME RESIDENTS INTO MEDICAID MANAGED CARE: "States had traditionally been reluctant to place frail and elderly people into managed care. But that caution is fading as officials become comfortable with managed care and more anxious to curb Medicaid spending. The elderly and disabled account for about 6 percent of Medicaid enrollees, but nearly half of the program's spending." (Phil Galewitz, Kaiser Health News)
SOME SAME-SEX COUPLES DENIED FAMILY POLICIES ON INSURANCE EXCHANGES: "Federal rules say that legally married same-sex couples should be treated the same as opposite-sex couples when it comes to determining eligibility for premium tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies that reduce the cost of marketplace plans...But when it comes to defining 'family' for health insurance purposes, there's no clear federal definition; the decision is left up to the states. Moreover, if state law doesn't spell out what "family" or "spouse" means for insurance purposes, insurers generally have flexibility to make those determinations themselves." (Michelle Andrews, Kaiser Health News)
WE FINALLY HAVE METRO-LEVEL NUMBERS FOR STATES THAT OPTED OUT OF MEDICAID EXPANSION: And they're really bad. (Emily Badger, Atlantic Cities)
Read the full Urban Institute report here.
ARKANSAS 'PRIVATE OPTION' MEDICAID PLAN COULD BE DERAILED WHEN LEGISLATURE VOTES WHETHER TO REAUTHORIZE FUNDING: "The Legislature approved the state's version of Medicaid expansion last year with 28 out of 35 votes in the Senate and 77 out of 100 votes in the House. Supporters said they never expected reauthorization to be easy — a quirk of the state's Constitution means a three-fourths vote is required — but the prospect dimmed after a Democratic state senator who voted for the private option last year resigned and was succeeded in a special election last month by a Republican opponent of the program." (Abby Goodnough, New York Times)
CALIFORNIA'S HEALTH EXCHANGE REMOVES PHYSICIAN DIRECTORIES DUE TO ERRORS: The lists described doctors as fluent in languages they did not speak, obstetricians were labeled as ophthalmologists and physicians were falsely listed under plans that did not cover their care at their offices. (Ian Lovett, New York Times)
ILLINOIS IS USING THE ONION TO REACH THE UNINSURED: Banner ads on the organization's website read: "Man without insurance is forced to sell action figures to pay medical bills." and "Get Covered. Don't sell your action figures." (Carla Johnson, Associated Press)
Drugs and Medication
SHORTAGES OF CRITICAL DRUGS PERSIST: A GAO report found that F.D.A. is preventing more shortages than in the past, but that the number of shortages has continued to increase. (Sabrina Tavernise, New York Times)
Read the full report here.
PHARMACISTS INCREASINGLY PROVIDING DIRECT CARE: "Across the country, they are working with doctors to give immunizations and help patients safely manage medications. In some places, they can even write prescriptions after a physician's diagnosis." (Anna Gorman, Kaiser Health News)
CVS announced last week that it would stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products, to further position itself as a health care company. (Sophie Novack and Dustin Volz, National Journal)
PRESCRIPTION PAINKILLERS SEEN AS A GATEWAY TO HEROIN: Experts say that opiates have altered the landscape of addiction and relapse. (Benedict Carey, New York Times)
HOBBY LOBBY FILES BRIEF IN ACA CONTRACEPTION MANDATE CASE: The business filed its written brief with the Supreme Court Monday. Oral arguments will be heard March 25.
Read the brief here.
SENATE BUDGET HEARING WITH CBO DIRECTOR DOUG ELMENDORF: Chairman Patty Murray and the Budget Committee will be holding a hearing on "The Budget and Economic Outlook for Fiscal Years 2014-2024" at 10:30 a.m.