Another lawsuit aims to take down the Affordable Care Act

A federal judge in Texas heard arguments Wednesday in a case aimed at doing what the Republican Congress has not yet been able to do — dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

The suit hinges on the change to the individual mandate as a part of the tax overhaul President Trump signed into law in December, which zeroed out the requirement that most Americans have health insurance or pay a fine.

The GOP plaintiffs also sought a “preliminary injunction” of the law, which would mean the law would be suspended while the case is decided. The judge has not made a decision on the injunction yet.

Judge Reed O’Connor, a conservative jurist appointed by George W. Bush, heard arguments from GOP plaintiffs, the Justice Department and 17 Democratic attorneys general, with the bulk of his questions going to the defendants of the law.

The lead Democrat arguing the case, California attorney general Xavier Becerra, cautioned against ending the law, even temporarily, as it “would wreak havoc in our health care system.”

The case was filed in February by 18 GOP attorneys general and two GOP governors. They argue the Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate in 2012 as a part of Congress’s authority to tax. Now that the mandate carries no penalty, it can no longer be justified as a tax and should be struck down. And without the mandate, the rest of the law crumbles, including the law’s arguably most popular requirement, that insurers must cover people with pre-existing conditions at no extra cost.

Legal scholars across the political divide believe this is a weak argument, but the case could be the first to go before the more conservative Supreme Court.

Although the Trump administration is technically the defendant in the case, the administration announced in June it would not defend the law. The Justice Department wrote in its filing with the case that it did not think the entire law needed to be eliminated, but it did agree the protections for preexisting conditions should be eliminated January 1, 2019, when the tax penalty goes away.

Filing a case that could put protections for those with pre-existing conditions at risk has already had some political fallout for Republicans, as Democratic candidates have started using it in their campaigns for Congress.

In response, a group of 10 Republican senators introduced legislations last month that prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage or charging more for a pre-existing condition. Democrats point out that the new legislation would not require insurer’s plans to cover treatment for those illnesses, as the Affordable Care Act currently does.

What all of this means is that this is once again a wait-and-see moment for the Affordable Care Act, a daunting concept with open enrollment and an election quickly approaching.

Early 2019 insurance rates highlight a need for benefit alternatives

Inurance Consultant ClaimLinx offers employers a solution for rising health care costs

BOSTONJune 7, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Insurance premium proposals for 2019 are rolling in this month, so far with requested rate hikes as high as 47 percent in some states. This on top of health care costs outpacing economy-wide inflation for the first time since 2010 forecasts a challenging market for business owners.

Nationwide insurance companies are citing policy changes to the Affordable Care Act, including the repeal of the individual mandate and expanded short term options, as the culprit for the requested higher rates.

Also driving up premiums are medical expenditures. They are expected to rise 2.2 percent this year, compared with 1.9 percent for overall inflation, according to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Yet rising prices have done nothing to quell employees’ desire for improving benefits, as they’re now being used as a benchmark in a tightening job market. Employers are going to need alternative benefit solutions to stay competitive with the national unemployment rate dipping to 3.8 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

They’re going to need options like those offered at ClaimLinx, a full-service consultant, insurance agency and third-party administrator that specializes in guiding business owners through the insurance market with its own unique strategy for achieving the best, most affordable health plan.

ClaimLinx has pioneered a solution for purchasing health insurance that combines traditional high deductible insurance plans with a customized self-funded medical expense reimbursement plan. The resulting plan enables employers to offer top-notch benefits at a much lower cost.

Tom Quigley, National Benefits Consultant at ClaimLinx, emphasized that this has to be business owners’ first priority.

“You’ve got to be providing the best assets you can to your employees or it’s going to become your liability — no question,” he said.

What started as a small idea in Cincinnati about cutting costs on health insurance has grown to a nationwide service with offices in Boston and North Conway, NH. In 2017 ClaimLinx helped business owners save an estimated $3.2 million.

John Moore, President of the manufacturing company Ohio Metal Products, changed his company’s benefits plan to the ClaimLinx solution because of increasing costs and even more limited options.

“Our company has saved tens of thousands of dollars,” Moore said. “ClaimLinx can provide the benefits that we want, not what the insurance company suggests.”

Contact: Whitney Faber, (617) 892-4655
wfaber@claimlinx.com
www.claimlinx.com

View the published press release.

Senators To Vote On Republican Healthcare Bill

This week Republican Senators Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, and Bill Cassidy, of Louisiana, introduced a new healthcare bill aimed at repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare.

The Senate is expected to vote on the bill next week, as any repeal and replace bill must be completed and voted on by September 30 in order for it to pass with only a simple majority of 51 votes. 

This bill would mean a radical change to the current healthcare system. Here are some of the biggest changes in the bill:

  • Repeals the individual mandate requiring all individuals have health insurance.
  • Repeals the employer mandate requiring all businesses with more than 50 employees to provide an affordable health plan.
  • Allows insurance companies to reinstate lifetime benefit maximums.
  • Allows insurance companies to charge people with preexisting conditions more money for a plan.
  • Requires insurance companies still provide coverage to people with preexisting conditions.
  • Removes the optional Medicaid expansion for each state.
  • Dissolves the federal insurance marketplace known as healthcare.gov.
  • Gets rid of the federal subsidies to help pay insurance premiums for those that cannot afford them.
  • Combines the funds for the Medicaid expansion and insurance subsidies into large block grants given to each state to spend freely to improve healthcare in the state. 

Funding in the form of federal block grants to states would continue until the year 2026, when funding would be cut off. Most harmed by this bill are those states that chose to implement the Medicaid expansion through the ACA. States that did not do this would see a large influx of cash through the federal block grants in the bill. 

Because of the short time frame to vote on the bill the Congressional Budget Office will not be able to provide a full analysis of how this will affect coverage for Americans, though the CBO did say it would release a limited analysis early next week. 

You can see how your state’s funding will be affected in this analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

 

Senate Republicans Fail To Pass ACA Replacement Bill

One of the highest priorities this year for the Republican-controlled Congress is to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Last week Senate Republicans released a new version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act, their repeal and replace bill, but were unable to corral enough support to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.

Republicans have now returned to an earlier plan to repeal the ACA first, with a two-year waiting period for implementation during which time they will continue to work on new healthcare legislation.

However, it is not known if a measure like this would pass either. Republicans passed a bill like it in the past, during the Barack Obama presidency when Republicans knew it would be vetoed. President Donald Trump would likely sign any bill that would repeal the ACA.

As this activity in Washington continues, all of us at ClaimLinx want to reassure our clients that we are prepared to adapt to any new healthcare bill and its resulting effects on the insurance market.

It’s important to remember that until a bill is signed by the White House, the ACA and the insurance market will continue as usual. But we will be ready for any changes if and when they occur.

Future For SCOTUS Still In Turmoil After Nomination

President Barack Obama halted speculation this week when he nominated Merrick Garland, chief justice of the U.S. court of appeals for the District of Columbia, to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court left by Antonin Scalia.

The drama surrounding the decision to fill the office rages on though, as members of the Senate must now decide if they will confirm the nomination or leave the seat vacant until the next president is elected.

At stake during this time of turmoil are a number of cases waiting to be heard and those already awaiting decision, including three cases concerning the future of healthcare. With only eight members of the high court left, there is an opportunity for a 4-4 split of the justices’ votes.

In the event of a split, the decision of the lower court is upheld, and the case is not deemed to have set any sort of precedent. The power of the Supreme Court as a final word and decision is effectively diluted.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already pledged that he will not confirm, or meet with, any nomination from Obama in an effort to involve the American people in the decision.

“The American people may well elect a president who decides to nominate Judge Garland for consideration,” he said on the Senate floor. “The next president may also nominate somebody very different. Either way, our view is this: Give the people a voice filling the vacancy.”

Garland, who was confirmed in his current position by a majority of both Democrats and Republicans, is seen as a moderate politically.

He has already been involved in a number of healthcare related cases, sometimes siding with hospitals and sometimes siding with the Department of Health and Human Services.

“The nominee that was selected is probable the exact type of nominee most moderate Americans would want – somebody that is in the middle of the political spectrum and is extremely qualified,” Stewart Verdery, the founder of the Monument Policy Group, said to the Wall Street Journal.

Democrats in Congress demand members of the GOP fulfill their duty and consider the nomination, but it is unlikely a decision be made until the results of the presidential election.

In the meantime, the remaining Supreme Court justices will hear arguments next week in the case of Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged v. Burwell, regarding non-profit companies’ obligation to provide birth control at no cost to employees. A decision is expected in June.