Five years ago, in the wake of passage of the Affordable Care Act ("ACA"), the ACA regulators issued a series of interim final regulations concerning grandfathered plans and immediate reforms applicable to group health plans and individual insurance policies, such as age 26 coverage, the prohibition on rescissions, and internal and external appeals. Late last week, the ACA regulators finalized these rules in a behemoth 379 page publication that will appear in the Federal Register on Wednesday.
Professor Tim Jost in his Health Affairs explains that
The final rules make no major changes in the interim rules. Indeed, they make virtually no changes in the interim rules as interpreted by current guidance.The FEHBlog disagrees with Mr. Jost that the finalization of the rules makes it more difficult for a future administration to change them as interim rules are final rule. It is stunning to the FEHBlog that the ACA regulators did not open a new comment period given the lapse of time since the first round of comments. But that's the ACA for you.
What the final rules do in many instances, however, is to incorporate existing [FAQ] guidance into final rule form. As guidance is not as legally authoritative as are regulations, this clarifies the legal status of existing interpretations of the rules. The finalization of these rules also makes it more difficult for a future administration to change them as the Obama administration nears its final year.
The final rule will go into effect on January 1, 2017, at which time the interim rules will no longer remain in effect.