HHS Rule Would Guide States on Applying for Reform Law Waivers
According to "Healthwatch," the proposed rule represents Democrats' latest attempt to provide states with the flexibility to meet the overhaul's requirements requested by state leaders and officials (Pecquet, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 3/10).
Earlier this month, President Obama endorsed a bill (S 248), which was introduced last year by Sens. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Ron Wyden (R-Ore.) -- that would allow states to obtain waivers for provisions in the federal health reform law as early as 2014, three years before the overhaul currently permits (California Healthline, 3/1).
Under the proposed rule, states would be required to pass laws that codify their health reform plans before they can seek HHS' approval that their plans would provide coverage that would be just as comprehensive and affordable as those that would be offered through the insurance exchanges under the health reform law.
State plans also would have to cover at least the same number of people as the federal government plan and not add to the federal deficit. If their requests are approved, states would have to submit quarterly and annual reports to HHS with coverage and affordability data, among other information (McCarthy, National Journal, 3/10). Public comment on the proposed rule ends on May 13 ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 3/10).
Meanwhile, the Obama administration has issued a slew of new waivers, exempting more businesses from certain requirements in the federal health reform law, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.
HHS in 2010 began granting waivers to businesses that offer low-cost health plans, or "mini-med" plans, exempting them for one year from a provision in the reform law that prohibits caps on health benefits.
An estimated 2.6 million U.S. residents are covered under such plans, according to HHS. By December 2010, the agency had granted nearly 730 waivers, and as of Thursday, that number stood at 1,040.
Individuals Also Should Have Access to Waivers, Lawmaker Says
As GOP criticism of the waivers and health reform law mounted this week, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) on Thursday announced a new bill (HR 984) that would allow individual consumers to apply for waivers from any mandates included in the health reform law (Millman, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 3/11).
Rogers said the bill also would exempt businesses with more than 50 employees from the requirement to provide insurance coverage to the workers (Norman, CQ HealthBeat, 3/10).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.