Sunday, March 06, 2011

Weekend Update

The Washington Post reports that House Speaker John Boehner (R Ohio) is convening a meeting of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group.  This is the first step in a process that is expected to lead to the House of Representatives intervening in the various lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act. The Justice Department has decided that it can no longer defend this law which prevents same sex spouses from receiving FEHB coverage, among other federal benefits.

In other legal action, U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson (Northern District of Florida) issued an order last week, at the federal government's request, staying his decision holding the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional provided that the Justice Department promptly appeals his decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Cir. and seeks expedited review either from that Court or the U.S. Supreme Court.

Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a report on the implementation and operation of the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program in 2010. The Affordable Care Act created the EERP to subsidize group insurance coverage of early retirees (those who retire at age 55 or older but before age 65 when Medicare kicks in). Notwithstanding the fact that (or perhaps because) the FEHB Program has a very large cadre of early retirees, HHS barred FEHBP carriers from participating in the EERP.  Congress appropriated $5 billion of funding for the EERP and insiders joked that the General Motors retiree health plan VEBA would suck up all of the money. The FEHBlog was therefore surprised that the public sector (state and local government health plans) was by far the largest beneficiary of the EERP, receiving 47% of the $535 million disbursed.

While speaking of HHS, it's worth noting that the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, the CMS agency responsible for implementing the Affordable Care Act, has fresh new website which does not share the look of other CMS agency websites.

Finally, the FEHBlog notes two note-worthy New York Times articles over the weekend -- one which appears to recognize that health insurance premium increases are tied to health care cost increases and the other on the demise of talk therapy by psychiatrists.

No comments: