Health Insurance Reform Legislative Update

HCSC President and CEO Meets with HHS Secretary Sebelius
On May 27, Pat Hemingway Hall, President and CEO of Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC), which operates Blue Cross and Blue Shield divisions in Illinois, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, joined executives from Cigna, WellPoint and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association in meeting with Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to discuss the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA).

Ms. Hemingway Hall was able to share the company’s views on implementing some of the provisions of this sweeping and complex law, and she reported that there was a spirit of cooperation and good dialogue around key issues.

In a press conference after the meeting, the Secretary stated that federal officials are reaching out to self-insured plans to encourage them to permit young adults to remain on their parents’ policy this year. She also said that she has spoken with state governments, large universities, and large employers about the issue and that approximately 65 employers have already agreed to cooperate. HCSC implemented this provision on May 1, for its individual, small and large group fully insured customers.

Secretary Sebelius also said that the National Association of Insurance Commissioners will provide HHS with their medical loss ratio (MLR) recommendations by the end of June. She noted that conversations are ongoing about what types of health plan activities should be included as medical expenses under MLR. During the meeting with the Secretary, Ms. Hemingway Hall cited HCSC’s efforts to reduce hospital acquired infections as an example of activities that should be considered as quality improvements when calculating MLR. Later, Secretary Sebelius noted that example in her press conference.

Premium Subsidies Lapse during Congressional Recess
Federal COBRA and state continuation premium subsidies began lapsing June 1, at least temporarily, because the Senate adjourned for its Memorial Day break last week without taking action on any short-term extension of the subsidies. Without the extension, workers laid off after May 31 will not be eligible for the subsidy.

The bill under consideration would provide the 15-month, 65 percent COBRA premium subsidy through Nov. 30, 2010. If passed, the bill could be applied retroactively so there is no break in eligibility of newly terminated employees.

The House and Senate will return from recess the week of June 7, and will likely take up the issue again.

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