On July 18, a senior advisor to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Treasury (Treasury) told key congressional members that his agency would not delay any more provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Testifying before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, J. Mark Iwry told committee members that Treasury did not have “any specific provision that we’ve identified for which we would give some relief.”
This statement shines light on the mindset of federal regulators as the health Exchanges/Marketplaces launch nears (October 1), as well as deployment of the Individual Mandate provision on January 1. While the White House and federal agencies intend to avoid any further delays of PPACA enactment, many question how prepared the federal government and states actually are for the continued implementation of PPACA.
Recent developments, including the delay of the Employer Mandate along with some parts of the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Exchanges, have fueled these concerns, signaling the federal government’s need to scale back PPACA implementation. And since the Employer Mandate delay came as a surprise and lacked details, many Americans speculate that more delays may be on the horizon.
Individual Mandate on Track
The most significant potential delay would be a postponement of the Individual Mandate. This provision, which requires all Americans to maintain health coverage, with a few exceptions, is at the core of PPACA and essential to maintaining the coverage expansion and budgetary goals pivotal to the law. In a hearing before the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, Mr. Iwry reiterated that “the individual responsibility provisions…are necessary for implementing the ACA’s insurance market reforms that guarantee access to affordable insurance for individuals.”
While Treasury Department officials have assured Congress that no other delays are planned, Brokers, consumers, and insurers should be on guard if the Obama administration decides to pursue any postponements. In fact, the administration’s decision to delay the Employer Mandate was not discussed with some of the provision’s key enforcement officials. Marilyn Tavenner, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said she was not consulted on the decision to delay the Employer Mandate, and was notified only about a week before the decision was announced to the public. Therefore, it is conceivable that these types of decisions are being made at higher levels and without the knowledge or consultation of officials such as Mr. Iwry.
House Efforts to Delay Individual Mandate
Despite assurances from the Treasury Department that the Individual Mandate will not meet future delays, other factors could change the course. For example, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed H.R. 2668, the Fairness for American Families Act, which would delay the provision for one year. Twenty-two Democrats joined all but one Republican to support this bill, which Republican leaders said was aimed at providing the same delay for families as the government had already provided to employers with the Employer Mandate Delay. The bill, which the Senate has decided not to consider, is opposed by the White House.
While it is unlikely that any more PPACA delays as significant as the Employer Mandate’s postponement will take place, health insurance stakeholders should keep in mind that federal and state regulators are in the process of rolling out large, system-wide changes to the insurance industry. Officials like Mr. Iwry have expressed confidence that no more delays will be necessary, but it is possible that implementation may will surface as the October 1 launch date approaches.
We will continue to monitor this issue and keep you informed of new developments in this area. In the meantime, please visit www.Be Well Insurance Solutions.com to view past blogs and Legislative Alerts. Or, you may visit www.HealthcareExchange.com for more blog posts, polls, surveys and numerous resources.
The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the official policy, position, or opinions of Be Well Insurance Solutions. This update is provided for informational purposes. Please consult with a licensed accountant or attorney regarding any legal and tax matters discussed herein.
Author: Michael Gomes, Executive Vice President, BenefitMall