Health Insurance Reform Update for May

As the comment period ended with respect to medical loss ratio (MLR) regulations, a flurry of letters were sent last week to both the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In addition to Aetna health insurance and other insurers, several employer groups have written with comments and concerns, including the American Benefits Council, the National Coalition on Benefits and the National Retail Federation. In all cases, the comments point out that it’s important to assure that positive, quality-oriented elements of health care, such as health information technology, disease management and wellness programs, fraud and abuse regimens, all should count as quality measures when calculating a company’s MLR. The National Retail Federation in particular noted the need for a national MLR for large employer business, a position well embraced by Aetna.

In the never-ending roll-out of proposed health care reform regulations, the Administration last week published yet another set of Interim Final Regulations. This set deals with coverage for dependent children up to age 26 pursuant to the requirement that insurers and group plans allow kids to stay on their parents’ policies or coverage until age 26.  Comments are due by August 11, but the rule is effective July 12, 2010. Many insurers have already announced that they will implement this provision early (e.g., May 31 for Aetna) to cover graduating college students who may have otherwise faced the summer without insurance. Whether self-funded employers follow suit is not as clear. Also, with the temporary fix of Medicare physician reimbursement rates set to run out the end of May, the House is expected to take up a more lasting fix sometime this week. If the House proceeds as expected it will attempt to install a five-year suspension of any physician rate cuts. Aetna supports the change, as it will give this market predictability.

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