Monday, January 17, 2011

Weekend Update

The FEHBlog trusts that its readers have enjoyed a restful King Day weekend. Over the weekend, the FEHBlog's law firm has been renamed the Ermer Law Group, PLLC, following a partner's departure to start her own firm.  Clients will receive an informational letter shortly.

The House of Representatives resumes its work tomorrow.  The Senate does not resume its business until a week from tomorrow. reports that TRICARE, the health care program for military dependents and retirees, is implementing a special coverage program for young adults up to age 26. TRICARE supporters fought so hard to keep TRICARE out of the Affordable Care Act that the age 26 coverage mandate is not applicable to TRICARE. This new program created by the recent defense authorization act is a self pay program-- the young adults or their parents must pay for the coverage --  in contrast to the Affordable Care Act which requires plans to cover children up to age 26 under self and family coverage. As the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for.

Kaiser Health News features a story about "UNC Health Care System and Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina plans to cut the ribbon late this year on a new project, part clinic and part laboratory for reinventing health care, for around 5,000 patients in either Durham or Chapel Hill."  The new project may become an accountable care organization according to the story. The FEHBlog really appreciates these stories about cooperative efforts between insurers and providers.

BNA called the FEHBlog's attention to a December 30, 2010, Congressional Research Service report titled "Health Savings Accounts - Rules for 2011."  The report explains that
Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are one way people can pay for unreimbursed medical expenses (deductibles, copayments, and services not covered by insurance) on a tax-advantaged basis. HSAs can be established and funded by eligible individuals when they have a qualifying high deductible health plan and no other health plan, with some exceptions. For 2011, the deductible for self-only coverage must be at least $1,200 (with an annual out-of-pocket limit not exceeding $5,950); the deductible for family coverage must be at least $2,400 (with an annual out-of-pocket limit not exceeding $11,900). 
The annual HSA contribution limit in 2011 for individuals with self-only coverage is $3,050; for family coverage, it is $6,150. Individuals who are at least 55 years of age but not yet enrolled in Medicare may contribute an additional $1,000. 
The tax advantages of HSAs can be significant for some people: contributions are deductible (or excluded from income that is taxable if made by employers), withdrawals are not taxed if used for medical expenses, and account earnings are tax-exempt. Unused balances may accumulate without limit. HSAs and the accompanying high-deductible health plans are one form of what some call “consumer-driven health plans.” One objective of these plans is to encourage individuals and families to set money aside for their health care expenses. Another is to give them a financial incentive for spending health care dollars prudently. Still another goal is to give them the means to pay for health care services of their own choosing, without constraint by insurers or employers. Since HSAs are still relatively new (they have been authorized for less than six years), the extent to which they will further these objectives is not yet known with any assurance, notwithstanding some early data. 
There are several consumer driven offerings in the FEHB Program

No comments: