health insurance marketplace

The White House’s One-Two Punch to Obamacare: A Knockout Blow to the ACA?

Posted by Robert A. Chu on October 16, 2017
ACA, Affordable Care Act / No Comments

Health insurance application form with money and stethoscopeIn moves that stunned and alarmed insurers, providers, and consumers alike, on October 12, the White House issued an announcement and an Executive Order that appear to be purposefully designed to decimate the Exchanges under the ACA:

  1. The White House announced that the government will stop making cost-sharing reduction payments to insurance companies under Obamacare.  According to the White House, there is no appropriation for such payments.  As the Exchange plans will still be obligated to bear the costs of the cost-sharing reductions, premiums for Exchange plans that remain in the market would be expected to rise dramatically.  Many Exchange plans have termination provisions which allow them to terminate their 2018 contracts if the cost-sharing subsidies stop.  On October 13, eighteen states and the District of Columbia sued the administration to restore the funding.
  2. The President also issued an Executive Order requiring the relevant agencies to consider regulations or guidance (1) allowing more employers to form association health plans (AHPs) and (2) expanding the availability of short-term, limited-duration insurance (STLDI).  If the regulations come to fruition, younger and healthier people are expected to be siphoned from Exchange products and into cheaper AHPs and STLDI plans (that potentially offer skimpier coverage), creating adverse selection.  Premiums will rise for those left in the Exchanges.

Is the ultimate goal of these moves the total destruction of the Exchanges?  Are they bargaining chips designed to bring Congress back to the table to fix the “problems” with the ACA?  If the latter, will Medicaid spending cuts sought by many Republicans be part of that discussion?  Stay tuned.

Robert A. Chu

Robert A. Chu

Rob is a member in the Health Law Practice Group. He primarily represents health care clients in Medicare, Medicaid, and third-party payor reimbursement disputes. Rob also counsels health care clients on regulatory and compliance issues. He was selected as a Super Lawyers Rising Star (Health Care) for 2016-2018.

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OIG’s New Work Plan Focuses on the Security of Health Information

Posted by Gregory M. Fliszar on December 04, 2014
CMS, HHS, HIPAA, OIG / No Comments

On October 31, 2014, The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) released its Work Plan for fiscal year (FY) 2015.  The Work Plan summarizes “new and ongoing reviews of activities that OIG plans to pursue with respect to HHS programs and operations during the current fiscal year and beyond.”  In the Work Plan OIG identified several areas related to HIPAA and/or information technology that it will examine and address during FY 2015.

As a new addition to the Work Plan, OIG will determine the extent to which hospitals comply with the contingency requirements of HIPAA.  HIPAA’s Security Rule requires covered entities and their business associates to have in place a contingency plan that establishes policies and procedures for responding to an emergency or other event (such as, for example, natural disasters, system failures, terrorism) that damages systems containing electronic protected health information (ePHI).  These policies and procedures must, at a minimum, include data backup plans, data recovery plans and plans to continue to protect the security of ePHI while operating in emergency operations mode.  In the Work Plan OIG advises that it will compare contingency plans used by hospitals with government and industry recommended practices. 

As part of the Work Plan, OIG will continue to examine whether the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) oversight of hospitals’ security controls over networked medical devices is sufficient to protect ePHI.   The OIG noted that computerized medical devices such as dialysis machines, radiology systems and medication dispensing systems that use hardware, software and networks to monitor a patient’s condition and transmit and/or receive data using wired or wireless communications pose a growing threat to the security and privacy of personal health information. 

OIG also plans to continue to perform audits of covered entities receiving incentive payments for the use of electronic health records (EHRs) and their business associates (including cloud providers) to determine whether they are adequately protecting ePHI created or maintained by certified EHR technology.  In addition, OIG will review the adequacy of CMS’ oversight of states’ Medicaid system and information controls.  Prior OIG audits found that states often fail to have in place adequate security features, potentially exposing Medicaid beneficiary information to unauthorized access.

As to future endeavors, the Work Plan stated that other areas under consideration for new work include the security of electronic data, the use and exchange of health information technology, and emergency preparedness and response efforts.  In addition, OIG advises that in FY 2015 and beyond, it will continue to focus on IT systems security vulnerabilities in health care reform programs such as health insurance marketplaces. 

Gregory M. Fliszar

Gregory M. Fliszar

Greg focuses his practice on health law and handles a variety of health law litigation and regulatory and compliance matters for a number of different types of health care providers, including hospitals, hospices, mental health providers and physician groups. He has significant experience with HIPAA and privacy issues and has counseled insurance company clients on understanding their obligations under the Medicare Secondary Payer Act.

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