GOP Lawmakers Revisit Efforts To Dismantle Health Reform Law
On Thursday, House Republicans moved to repeal two provisions of the federal health reform law, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 9/15).
The effort comes after GOP efforts to repeal parts of the reform law had slowed in recent months. Since January, Congress has passed only a few minor changes to the reform law: reducing insurance subsidy funds and eliminating a program to allow employers to let some individuals choose their own insurance plans. In the meantime, Congress over the summer focused mostly on deficit-reduction negotiations (National Journal, 9/8).
Efforts To Repeal Grandfathered Status Measure
However, Republicans have reignited their opposition to the law, with members of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health discussing a draft regulation that would repeal a measure under which certain health plans can lose their grandfathered status ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 9/15).
Under the reform law, health plans established prior to enactment of the overhaul are grandfathered and not subject to all of the requirements for new health plans. However, they are subject to certain overhaul requirements, such as a prohibition on lifetime benefit limits and a provision that allows young adults to stay on their parents' policies until age 26. If grandfathered plans make any major changes, they are then consider new plans and must comply with all of the provisions in the overhaul.
Republicans argue that the provision breaks Obama's pledge that U.S. residents who like their insurance can keep it.
Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), chair of the health subcommittee, said, "Because grandfathered plans are subject to many of (the overhaul's) requirements, employers today are forced to pay more to keep their current grandfathered plans, shop for more expensive plans or drop coverage for their employees altogether" (Ethridge, CQ Today, 9/15).
According to National Journal, it is unclear whether a repeal of the provision would affect new customers seeking health insurance or just companies and individuals already enrolled in plans.
House Republicans Seek To Repeal Medical-Loss Ratio Provision
In related news, House Republicans are pushing a measure (HR 2077) that would repeal the reform law's medical-loss ratio provision (Sanger-Katz, National Journal, 9/15). Under the MLR rule, private insurers are required to spend at least 80% in the individual market or 85% in the group market of their premium dollars on direct medical costs. Insurers that do not comply with the ratio will have to issue rebates to consumers.
Critics of the provision say it could have unintended consequences, such as negatively affecting insurance brokers (National Journal, 9/15). Pitts said the provision creates a "perverse incentive" for insurers not to invest in quality improvement ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 9/15). He added that companies might not invest in fraud detection because it does not fall under the definition of medical care.
Steve Larsen, director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight at HHS, said the MLR rule finds a "middle ground" that allows for some fraud recovery expenses to be considered medical care costs (CQ Today, 9/15).
Senate Appropriations Committee Rejects Amendment To Block Health Reform Funding
The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday in a 16-14 party-line vote rejected an amendment by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) that would have prohibited funds allocated for the Internal Revenue Service from being used to implement the reform law, CQ Today reports.
The amendment was attached to draft legislation funding the Treasury Department, federal courts, the District of Columbia and various independent agencies in fiscal year 2012. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), chair of the Financial Services Appropriations panel, said the amendment would have caused a loss in revenue and triggered a budget point of order against the bill (Carter, CQ Today, 9/15).
Lawmakers Want Rejected Health Funds To Aid Deficit
Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo (R) on Wednesday introduced legislation (HR 2961) that would send rejected money intended to help states implement the reform law to help reduce the deficit, McClatchy/Sacramento Bee reports.
Kansas and Oklahoma have rejected federal funding meant to bolster technology for building state-based health insurance exchanges under the overhaul. Kansas said the money came with too many requirements.
Pompeo said, "Kansas and Oklahoma have sent a clear signal to this administration that they reject its strings-attached funding," adding, "Let's use these funds to pay down our deficit" (Goldstein, McClatchy/Sacramento Bee, 9/15).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.