supreme court

Supreme Court to Rule Next Year on the ACA's Validity

With the Affordable Care Act (ACA) being questioned on whether it is in-whole or in-part constitutional, the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to rule on this matter again. The ruling regarding the validity of the ACA is expected by June of 2021. Continue reading this blog post to learn more.


The U.S. Supreme Court will again rule on whether the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is constitutional, in whole or in part, during its term beginning this October, the court announced on March 2. A ruling is expected before the term ends in June next year.

In 2019, Congress eliminated the ACA's penalty on individuals who lack health coverage—the so-called individual mandate. In the aftermath, several Republican state attorneys general filed a lawsuit claiming the ACA itself was no longer constitutional, while Democratic states and the House of Representatives, controlled by Democrats, stepped in to defend the statute.

Back in 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the ACA's individual mandate as a justifiable exercise of Congress's power to tax. But without an existing tax penalty, ACA critics charge that the health care statute itself, or at least the parts of the act closely linked to the individual mandate, are no longer constitutionally valid.

In December 2018, a Texas district court struck down the ACA but stayed its ruling pending appeal, concluding that the individual mandate is so connected to the law that Congress would not have passed the ACA without it. On appeal, in Texas v. United States, a split panel of the 5th Circuit instructed the district court to rehear the matter and "to employ a finer-toothed comb on remand and conduct a more searching inquiry into which provisions of the ACA Congress intended to be inseverable from the individual mandate."

Now that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case, it will not go back to the district court judge for that analysis, leaving the high court free to uphold the entire ACA, uphold the statute but void provisions linked to the individual mandate, or strike down the law in full, although that draconian option is viewed as exceedingly unlikely by legal analysts. The same five justices that upheld the ACA in 2012 remain on the court.

The health law remains fully in effect during the litigation, including all employer coverage obligations and reporting requirements.

The Supreme Court's Packed Schedule

The Supreme Court has placed five cases—including Texas v. United States—on the 2020 docket. This suggests that the hearing could be held in early or mid-October 2020, right before the 2020 election, although we may not know the oral argument schedule until later this spring or summer. In any event, a decision in Texas v. United States would not be expected until 2021 (and presumably not until June 2021).

It is worth noting that the Court will hear a separate ACA-related challenge on the final day of oral argument during its current term. On April 29, 2020, the Court will hear one hour of oral argument in the consolidated cases of Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania and Trump v. Pennsylvania. These cases focus on the validity of two Trump-era rules that created broad exemptions to the ACA's contraceptive mandate for religious or moral reasons. And we are still waiting on a decision from the Court over whether insurers are owed more than $12 billion in unpaid risk corridor payments; oral argument was held in that challenge in December 2019 and a decision could be issued at any time.
(Health Affairs)

Lawsuit Stoked Confusion

America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the insurance industry's leading lobbying group, applauded the justices' decision to hear the lawsuit. "We are confident that the Supreme Court will agree that the district court's original decision to invalidate the entire ACA was misguided and wrong," said AHIP President Matt Eyles in a statement.

Association for Community Affiliated Plans (ACAP), a group that represents more than 70 safety-net plans, noted that the lawsuit "has cast a pall of uncertainty over the future of the individual insurance market," according to ACAP CEO Margaret A. Murray.
(Fierce Healthcare)

5th Circuit Highlighted Suspect ACA Provisions

When the 5th Circuit instructed the district court to rehear the matter and to focus on those ACA provisions that Congress intended to be "inseverable from the individual mandate," this suggested, legal analysts said, that the appellate court was unlikely to overturn the ACA in full. However, the appellate court might have struck down those parts of the law directly related to the individual mandate, such as the 5:1 ratio age band, under which insurers can't charge seniors premiums more than five times what younger patients pay, and community rating, which prevents insurers from varying premiums within a geographic area based on age, gender, health status or other factors.

The increase in revenue to insurers from the individual mandate was meant to offset the decrease from these restrictions. It's unclear whether the U.S. Supreme Court will take a similar approach when it hears the case.
(SHRM Online)

SOURCE: Miller, S. (03 March 2020) "Supreme Court to Rule Next Year on the ACA's Validity" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/benefits/Pages/supreme-court-to-rule-next-year-on-CAs-validity.aspx


The Supreme Court gives employee's more room to sue you

The Supreme Court’s latest ruling isn’t going to make a lot of employers happy. 

The High Court just made it easier for employees to sue, claiming they were constructively discharged.

Constructive discharge occurs when an employer makes a person’s working conditions so intolerable — via some underhanded actions, like harassment or discrimination — that the person felt compelled to resign.

Federal law says private sector employees must file a charge of harassment, discrimination or constructive discharge with the EEOC within 180 days from the day the illegal act took place if they want to press charges in federal court. The deadline is extended to 300 calendar days if a state or local agency enforces a law that prohibits employment discrimination or harassment on the same basis.

Federal employees have just 45 days to contact an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) counselor to be able to file a charge.

The real issue

The question that was posed to the Supreme Court: In constructive discharge cases, what constitutes the last act of discrimination or harassment — i.e., when does the statute of limitations clock start running?

The High Court’s answer: The date the employee resigns (even if it’s not the person’s last day of work).

What happened?

The issue came up in a case in which former postal worker Marvin Green sued the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), claiming constructive discharge.

In late 2009, Green complained to USPS management that he’d been denied a promotion because he was African-American. From there, his relationship with the USPS entered a downward spiral that eventually led to his supervisors accusing him of deliberately delaying the mail (a federal offense).

Then, on Dec. 16, 2009, both parties signed an agreement in which the USPS agreed not to pursue criminal charges in exchange for Green either retiring or accepting a position in a remote location for far less pay. Green elected to retire and submitted his resignation on Feb. 9, 2010 (effective March 31).

On March 22, Green contacted an EEO counselor and alleged that he was constructively discharged. He then filed suit in federal district court, which dismissed his charges on the basis that it was untimely because he failed to contact an EEO counselor within 45 days of Dec. 16, the date he signed the agreement.

Green appealed, and the case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled in Green’s favor when it came to the start of the 45-day limitations period.

It said the period begins on the date an employee resigns.

The reasoning

The court said in cases in which an employee claims to have been fired for discriminatory reasons, the matter alleged to be discriminatory includes the discharge itself. Therefore, the 45-day limitations period begins when the employee is discharged.

The justices applied that same line of thinking to constructive discharge cases — saying that the matter alleged to be discriminatory includes the employee’s resignation.

Two reasons it did this:

  • It said a resignation is part of the elements of a constructive discharge claim. So without a resignation, the claim can’t even exist, and
  • It said requiring that a complaint be filed before resignation occurs would ignore that an employee may not be in a position to leave his job immediately.

Far-reaching effect

While this case dealt with a federal employee’s obligation to report to an EEO counselor within 45 days, it indicated that lower courts could apply the same reasoning to the 180/300-day periods imposed upon private sector employees.

One could even surmise that the ruling could also apply to state anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws as well.

Cite: Green v. Brennan (Postmaster General)

Originally Posted by HRMorning.com


Limited Employer Impact Likely from Gay Marriage Ruling

Originally posted by Joanne Deschenaux on June 26, 2015 on shrm.org.

All 50 states must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and must recognize same-sex marriages legally performed out of state, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 26, 2015, in a historic victory for gay civil rights (Obergefell v. Hodges, No. 14–556).

“Under the Constitution, same-sex couples seek in marriage the same legal treatment as opposite-sex couples, and it would disparage their choices and diminish their personhood to deny them this right,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority. He was joined by the court’s liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Each of the four conservative justices who dissented from the opinion—Chief Justice John Roberts and justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito—wrote a separate opinion, saying that the court had usurped a power that belongs to the people.

Implications for Employers

The impact of this decision on many employers will be limited, Scott D. Schneider, an attorney in Fisher & Phillips’ New Orleans office, told SHRM Online.

In states where same-sex marriage is currently legal, this ruling will have no effect, he said. But in other states, “employers should sit down and ask, ‘Where do we stand in light of this ruling?’ ”

One area that may be impacted is the granting of leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Schneider said. “Someone who enters into a same-sex marriage may be entitled to FMLA leave.”

Similarly, employers in states that have not allowed same-sex marriage to date should examine their medical insurance and retirement plans. Same-sex spouses may qualify as beneficiaries under these plans now, where previously they might have been legally excluded from participating.

“The bottom line is that all employer policies related to spouses should apply to same-sex marriages,” according to Nonnie Shivers, an attorney in the Ogletree Deakins Phoenix office. In addition, employers should require the same level and type of proof of a same-sex marriage as they would of any other marriage, she said.

In some ways, this will make things easier for employers, she noted. “They won’t have to try to figure out whether they need to recognize someone’s same-sex marriage performed in another state. Anyone who has entered into a same-sex marriage is protected as a spouse.”

But, as a practical matter, employers should be aware that in states that have not previously allowed same-sex marriage, things are not going to change overnight, Shivers added. “Some county clerks—the ones who issue marriage licenses—have said that they are going to wait to hear about changes from the attorney general,” she said. This means that employers should be somewhat cautious about changing certain policies. For example, if an employer has policies in place regarding domestic partnerships, it may not want to change those policies immediately, she suggested.

And she cautioned that just because the legality of same-sex marriage is now a settled issue, that doesn’t mean that it won’t sometimes be a “hot-button" issue in the workplace. Employers need to be prepared to deal with possible employee reactions—whether based on religious beliefs or other factors—to gay and lesbian employees in the workplace, she said.

Court Finds 14th Amendment Protection

Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee are four of the states that have defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Fourteen same-sex couples and two men whose same-sex partners are deceased had filed suits in federal district courts in their home states, claiming that state officials violated the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by denying them the right to marry or to have their marriages that were lawfully performed in another state given full recognition in their home state. Each district court ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor, but the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals consolidated the cases and reversed, ruling in favor of the states.

In reversing the 6th Circuit decision, the high court first examined the history of marriage as a union between two persons of the opposite sex, noting that while state officials arguing against same-sex marriage claimed that “it would demean a timeless institution if marriage were extended to same-sex couples,” the plaintiffs “far from seeking to devalue marriage, seek it for themselves because of their respect—and need—for its privileges and responsibilities.”

The court then noted the changes over time in the nature of marriage—such as the decline of arranged marriages and the abandonment of the laws that declared a wife the property of her husband—noting that these changes “have worked deep transformations in the structure of marriage, affecting aspects of marriage once viewed as essential.” These new insights “have strengthened, not weakened, the institution,” the court said.

The opinion next discussed the country’s experience with gay and lesbian rights. Well into the 20th century, many states condemned same-sex intimacy as immoral, the court noted, and homosexuality was treated as an illness. Later in the century, public attitudes shifted, allowing same-sex couples to lead more open lives. Then, questions about the legal treatments of gays and lesbians began reaching the courts, with numerous same-sex marriage cases reaching the federal courts and state supreme courts.

The Supreme Court’s majority opinion now sets forth its holding that the U.S. Constitution requires a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a same-sex marriage performed out of state.

The court has long held that the right to marry is protected by the 14th Amendment, the opinion noted, and the reasons marriage is fundamental under the Constitution apply with equal force to same-sex couples. “The right to personal choice regarding marriage is inherent in the concept of individual autonomy. This is true for all persons, whatever their sexual orientation.”

 


Supreme Court debates future of Affordable Care Act

Originally posted on March 5, 2015 by Ariane de Vogue on www.wqad.com.

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The future of health care in America is on the table — and in serious jeopardy — Wednesday morning in the Supreme Court.

After more than an hour of arguments, the Supreme Court seemed divided in a case concerning what Congress meant in one very specific four-word clause of the Affordable Care Act with respect to who is eligible for subsidies provided by the federal government to help people buy health insurance.

If the Court ultimately rules against the Obama administration, more than 5 million individuals will no longer be eligible for the subsidies, shaking up the insurance market and potentially dealing the law a fatal blow. A decision likely will not be announced by the Supreme Court until May or June.

All eyes were on Chief Justice John Roberts — who surprised many in 2012 when he voted to uphold the law — he said next to nothing, in a clear strategy not to tip his hand either way.

“Roberts, who’s usually a very active participant in oral arguments, said almost nothing for an hour and a half,” said CNN’s Supreme Court analyst Jeffrey Toobin, who attended the arguments. “(Roberts) was so much a focus of attention because of his vote in the first Obamacare case in 2012 that he somehow didn’t want to give people a preview of how he was thinking in this case. … He said barely a word.”

The liberal justices came out of the gate with tough questions for Michael Carvin, the lawyer challenging the Obama administration’s interpretation of the law, which is that in states that choose not to set up their own insurance exchanges, the federal government can step in, run the exchanges and distribute subsidies.

Carvin argued it was clear from the text of the law that Congress authorized subsidies for middle and low income individuals living only in exchanges “established by the states.” Just 16 states have established their own exchanges, but millions of Americans living in the 34 states are receiving subsidies through federally facilitated exchanges.

But Justice Elena Kagan, suggested the law should be interpreted in its “whole context” and not in the one snippet of the law that is the focus of the challengers.

“We look at the whole text. We don’t look at four words,” she said. Kagan also referred to the legal challenges to the law as the “never-ending saga.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor was concerned that in the states where the individuals may not be able to receive subsidies, “We’re going to have the death spiral that this system was created to avoid.”

And Sotomayor wondered why the four words that so bother the challengers did not appear more prominently in the law. She said it was like hiding “a huge thing in a mousetrap.”

“Do you really believe that states fully understood?” she asked, Carvin, that those with federally run exchanges “were not going to get subsidies?”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg suggested the four words at issue were buried and “not in the body of the legislation where you would expect to find” them.

Justice Anthony Kennedy asked questions that could be interpreted for both sides, but he was clearly concerned with the federalism aspects of the case.

“Let me say that from the standpoint of the dynamics of Federalism,” he said to Carvin. “It does seem to me that there is something very powerful to the point that if your argument is accepted, the states are being told either create your own exchange, or we’ll send your insurance market into a death spiral.”

He grilled Carvin on the “serious” consequences for those states that had set up federally-facilitated exchanges.

“It seems to me that under your argument, perhaps you will prevail in the plain words of the statute, there’s a serious constitutional problem if we adopt your argument,” Kennedy said.

The IRS — which is charged with implementing the law — interprets the subsidies as being available for all eligible individuals in the health exchanges nationwide, in both exchanges set up by the states and the federal government. In Court , Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. defended that position. He ridiculed the challengers argument saying it “revokes the promise of affordable care for millions of Americans — that cannot be the statute that Congress intended.”

But he was immediately challenged by Justice Antonin Scalia.

“It may not mean the statute they intended, the question is whether it’s the statute they wrote,” he said.

Although as usual, Justice Clarence Thomas said nothing, Justice Samuel Alito was also critical of Verrilli’s argument. He said if it were true that some of the states were caught off guard that the subsidies were only available to those in state run exchanges, why didn’t more of them sign amicus briefs. And he refuted the notion that the sky might fall if the challengers were to prevail by saying the Court could stay any decision until the end of the tax season.

On that point Scalia suggested Congress could act.

“You really think Congress is just going to sit there while all of these disastrous consequences ensue?” he asked.

Verrilli paused and to laughter said, “Well, this Congress? ”

Kennedy did ask Verrilli a question that could go to the heart of the case wondering if it was reasonable that the IRS would have been charged with interpreting a part of the law concerning “billions of dollars” in subsidies.

Only Ginsburg brought up the issue of standing — whether those bringing the lawsuit have the legal right to be in Court which suggested that the Court will almost certainly reach the mandates of the case.

President Barack Obama has expressed confidence in the legal underpinning of the law in recent days.

“There is, in our view, not a plausible legal basis for striking it down,” he told Reuters this week.

Wednesday’s hearing marks the third time that parts of the health care law have been challenged at the Supreme Court.

In this case — King v. Burwell — the challengers say that Congress always meant to limit the subsidies to encourage states to set up their own exchanges. But when only 16 states acted, they argue the IRS tried to move in and interpret the law differently.

Republican critics of the law, such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, filed briefs warning that the executive was encroaching on Congress’ “law-making function” and that the IRS interpretation “opens the door to hundreds of billions of dollars of additional government spending.”

In a recent Washington Post op-ed, Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and two other Republicans in Congress said that if the Court rules in their favor, “Republicans have a plan to protect Americans harmed by the administration’s actions.”

Hatch said Republicans would work with the states and give them the “freedom and flexibility to create better, more competitive health insurance markets offering more options and different choices.”

In Court, Verrilli stressed that four words — “established by the state” — found in one section of the law were a term of art meant to include both state run and federally facilitated exchanges.

He argued the justices need only read the entire statute to understand Congress meant to issue subsidies to all eligible individuals enrolled in all of the exchanges.

Democratic congressmen involved in the crafting of the legislation filed briefs on behalf of the government arguing that Congress’ intent was to provide insurance to as many people as possible and that the challengers’ position is not consistent with the text and history of the statute.

Last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell warned that if the government loses it has prepared no back up plan to “undo the massive damage.”


PPACA survives another SCOTUS challenge

Originally posted January 13, 2015 by Dan Cook on Life Health Pro. 

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act survived yet another legal attack Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge targeting the requirement that adult Americans enroll for coverage or pay a fine.

The challenge had been brought by two medical provider groups: the Alliance for Natural health USA and the Association of American Physicians. It was three strikes and out for the plaintiffs, whose arguments were turned down at the district and federal appellate level prior to filing for a SCOTUS review.

While Republicans have mounted a steady stream of legal challenges to PPACA, so far the Supreme Court has held in favor of the law. But another major thrust is just around the corner.

In March, the court is set to hear oral arguments in a case challenging the tax credit subsidies that some states have provided to those who meet certain income criteria. The subsidies have allowed millions to “purchase” health coverage through the state exchanges at no cost, or at greatly reduced premiums.

Meantime, the GOP is busily hacking away at PPACA in Congress. The House passed a bill that would redefine the workweek for purposes of the act as 40 hours. PPACA had defined a full work week as one with 30 hours for purposes of certain coverage requirements. The Senate has yet to act on a companion bill, and the White House said it would probably veto any bill that came its way.

govthealthcare-300x224.jpg


HHS Shaming Power Has Little Effect on Health Plans

By Lisa V. Gillespie

Last September, after the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act gave the Department of Health and Human Services authority to review premium rates in states that didn't have strong enough review programs, the agency began handing down decrees of "unreasonable" premium rates for insurers that proposed increasing rates by an average of 10% or more - meaning HHS can publically shame an insurer.

"HHS and states are really coming down hard on just about any carrier, which is creating a lot of angst at the carrier level and hand wringing. HHS seems very proud of it; so, this is a hot topic [among] insurance carriers and state-level bureaucrats," says Alan Cohen, chief strategy officer and co-founder of Liazon, a private health insurance exchange that serves mainly small employers. "But, in another realm where benefits managers live, this is a nonevent; they're not paying attention. Maybe they read it in the newspaper, but what matters to them is what the effect will be to their renewal." Cohen says that, depending on the size of the employer, rate increases may differ. Even if an employer is going with one insurer who is increasing rates, the company may not be any better off with another carrier.

 

Reviews politically motivated

Others experts think that the HHS reviews are politically motivated.

"Benefits managers don't pay attention to regulatory squabbles as rates are filed and improved," says Mike Turpin, executive vice president of USI, an insurance and financial services broker. "And I think they're getting conditioned [to] health care reform politics. They're not as enraged; they're kind of numb to it."

Further, employers may empathize with insurers, says Steven Friedman, chair of the employee benefits practice at Littler Mendelson. More than 13.5 million people now have health savings accounts complementing high-deductible health plans, according to the 2012 HSA Census by America's Health Insurance Plans.

"Employers often see themselves on the same side of the insurance companies in terms of trying to limit costs for participants covered under health plans," Friedman says. "The increases in annual premiums are viewed as industry wide phenomena, and employers will annually bid for the best coverage that is the most cost-efficient. I'm not sure the insurers are being tarred by the employers, because health care costs seem to rise universally."

 

Rate review offers transparency

PPACA requires states to report on trends in premium increases and recommend whether certain plans should be excluded from health insurance exchanges beginning in 2014, based on unjustified premium increases. HHS also may make that decision in states where rate review programs lack sufficient strength. Small employers in public exchanges will be able to see upfront which companies have been flagged for "unreasonable" hikes and be able to go to another insurer.

"[PPACA's] rate review policies bring an unprecedented level of scrutiny and transparency to health insurance rate increases. They ensure that, in every state, every proposed increase of 10% or more is evaluated by independent experts to assess whether they are based on reasonable assumptions and sound data," a CMS spokesperson tells EBN. "Rate review is expected to help moderate premium increases and provide consumers and employers with greater value for their premium dollar. Additionally, health insurance companies must provide easy-to-understand information to their customers about their reasons for significant rate increases, as well as publicly justify and post on their website any unreasonable rate increases. These protections allow consumers and employers in every state to learn more about their insurance premiums. All of this information is available at companyprofiles.healthcare.gov."

"Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, consumers are no longer in the dark about their health insurance premiums," said HHS Secretary Sebelius in a press release earlier this year. "It's time for these companies to immediately rescind these unreasonable rate hikes, issue refunds to consumers or publicly explain their refusal to do so."

However, industry groups say that it's not premium hikes that are driving up costs, but underlying medical and administrative costs. "New medical technologies that have high costs associated, new benefit mandates - all of those will drive up the cost, which is where the focus should be," says Robert Zirkelbach, press secretary for AHIP. He says the focus should be on providers, as opposed to insurers. "You saw this during reform, when [the debate] focus was on premiums and largely ignored cost drivers. If you want to bring down the cost, then that's where they lie."

 


Pay or play? A strategic HR response to PPACA

By Timothy Wojcik

Source: eba.benefitnews.com

With the recent Supreme Court ruling now finalized and the minimum essential health insurance provisions in place, companies have begun to ask us “What’s next?”  or “What will the financial impact be for our company in 2014?” My belief is that by taking a proactive approach to the individual mandate and understanding the impact on your company’s financials, you will be able to make that critical decision whether to continue offering a group health care plan or allow employees to elect coverage through the state mandated exchanges.

Based on external research, a recent study by Deloitte has found that approximately one in ten employers in the U.S. intend to “Pay” the penalty imposed on employers for opting out of group health coverage.  This number, however, does not reflect an additional 10% of employers who weren’t sure if they would continue coverage.  An overarching theme heard from our clients is that the benefits program offered today is instrumental in attracting, retaining, and engaging employees.

Ultimately, the decision to Pay or Play is a strategic HR decision which will not only impact the company’s fixed costs, but also the level of engagement and retention within the company.  A thorough analysis delicately weighing the financial and non-financial factors must occur to ensure that the decision falls in line with the company’s overall business and HR strategy.

 


Health Care Law to Cut Deficit, Says Budget Office

Copyright 2012 ProQuest Information and Learning

All Rights Reserved
Copyright 2012 Morning Sentinel

Morning Sentinel (Waterville, Maine)

BY RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR AND ANDREW TAYLOR

Associated Press
WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama's health care overhaul will shrink rather than increase the nation's huge federal deficits over the next decade, Congress' nonpartisan budget scorekeepers said Tuesday, supporting Obama's contention in a major election-year dispute with Republicans.

About 3 million fewer uninsured people will gain health coverage because of last month's Supreme Court ruling granting states more leeway, and that will cut the federal costs by $84 billion, the Congressional Budget Office said in the biggest changes from earlier estimates.

Republicans have insisted that Obamacare will actually raise deficits -- by "trillions," according to presidential candidate Mitt Romney. But that's not so, the budget office said.

The office gave no updated estimate for total deficit reductions from the law, approved by Congress and signed by Obama in 2010. But it did estimate that Republican legislation to repeal the overhaul -- passed recently by the House -- would itself boost the deficit by $109 billion from 2013 to 2022.

"Repealing the (health care law) will lead to an increase in budget deficits over the coming decade, though a smaller one than previously reported," budget office director Douglas Elmendorf said in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

The law's mix of spending cuts and tax increases would more than offset new spending to cover uninsured people, Elmendorf explained.

Tuesday's budget projections were the first since the Supreme Court upheld most of the law last month but gave states the option of rejecting a planned expansion of Medicaid for their low-income residents. As a consequence, the budget office said the law will cover fewer uninsured people.

Thirty million uninsured people will be covered by 2022, or about 3 million fewer than projected this spring before the court ruling, the report said.

As a result, taxpayers will save about $84 billion from 2012 to 2022. That brings the total cost of expanding coverage down to $1.2 trillion, from about $1.3 trillion in the previous estimate.

The Congressional Budget Office has consistently projected that Obama's overhaul will reduce the deficit, although previous estimates aren't strictly comparable with Tuesday's report because of changes in the law and other factors.

At the time it was approved in 2010, CBO estimated the law would reduce the deficit by $143 billion from 2010 to 2019. And CBO estimated that last year's Republican repeal legislation would increase deficits by $210 billion from 2010 to 2021.

That may sound like a lot of money, but it's actually a hair-thin margin at a time when federal deficits are expected to average around $1 trillion a year for the foreseeable future.

When the law is fully in effect, 92 percent of citizens and legal residents are estimated to have coverage, as compared to 81 percent now.

Democrats hailed Tuesday's estimates as vindication for the president. "This confirms what we've been saying all along: theAffordable Care Act saves lots of money," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Actually, the government will spend more. It just won't go onto the national credit card because the health care law will be paid for with a combination of spending cuts and tax increases.

GOP leaders sought to shift attention from claims about the deficit and focused instead on the additional spending. "What we know from today's CBO report ... is that the new health care law is dramatically increasing health care spending and costs," said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Republicans said they remain unswervingly committed to repealing what they dismiss as Obamacare. When combined with other budget-cutting measures, GOP leaders say that repeal will ultimately reduce deficits. Romney says if elected he will begin to dismantle the law his first day in office.

Medicaid has been one big question hanging over the future of Obama's law since the Supreme Court ruled.

Some GOP-led states, such as Texas and Florida, say they will not go forward with the expansion. Others are uncommitted, awaiting the voters' verdict on Obama in November.

Although the federal government would bear all of the initial cost of that expansion, many states would have to open their Medicaid programs to low-income childless adults for the first time.

CBO analysts did not try to predict which specific states would jump in and which would turn down the Medicaid expansion. Instead, they assumed that many states would eventually cut deals with the federal government to expand their programs to some degree.

As a result, the budget office estimates that more than 80 percent of the low-income uninsured people eligible under the law live in states that partially or fully expand their programs.

The big coverage expansion under the law doesn't start until 2014, with middle-class uninsured people signing up for subsidized private plans and more low-income people picked up through Medicaid.

 


Don’t Get Hit With Fines Under Health Care Reform

By Bonnie Lee
Source: smallbusiness.foxbusiness.com

With more than 500 provisions, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act contains hefty tax implications for small business owners.

Of the 500 provisions in health-care reform, more than 40 of these provisions affect the Internal Revenue Code, including incentives and tax breaks to individuals and small businesses to offset health-care expenses.

Some of the provisions also impose penalties for individuals and businesses that do not obtain health-care coverage for themselves or their employees. According to The Treasury Inspector General of Tax Administration which performed an audit of this law, “Revenue provisions contained in the legislation are designed to generate $438 billion to help pay for the overall cost of health care reform. Additionally, new reporting requirements have been established.”

One overlooked section in the reform fines both small businesses and corporations up to $500,000 for being discriminatory with their health insurance.

The Affordable Care Act requires businesses that offer health insurance to provide it to at least 70% of the employees.  It also requires that company executives not discriminate by having better insurance plans for some of their employees. The IRS penalty for companies with 50 or more employees that are found to be discriminatory may be fined as much as $100 per day per person or 10% of the annual premiums whichever is less--up to a maximum of $500,000.

Brett Goldstein, director of retirement planning at American Investment Planners in Jericho, NY states, “Many businesses have health insurance or better benefits for owners and top employees.   However under The Affordable Care Act, offering health insurance or different insurance to just a few key employees will be considered discriminatory.”

What constitutes discrimination under The Affordable Care Act?  Goldstein says that offering the top employees health insurance with shorter waiting periods or lower premiums could be discriminatory and lead to fines.

Differences in health plans can exist between different classes of employees. For example, a company can have different benefits for salaried employees vs. hourly employees, but not for “executives” vs. other employees.

The IRS temporarily suspended the health insurance non-discrimination rules in 2010.  However now that the Supreme Court has upheld the law, the IRS will now have to come up with specific rules regarding health insurance non-discrimination.

“Hopefully when the IRS issues regulations on health insurance non-discrimination they will relax some of the rules in the Affordable Care Act, such as the fines,” says Goldstein. “In the meantime, every business needs to be reviewing their health insurance to see if they are discriminating in favor of the owners and top paid employees.”

And it isn’t just businesses that will be penalized. According to the TIGTA audit report, an annual excise tax will be imposed on health insurance providers whose written net premiums exceed $25 million. It’s based on market share, with the total industry fee starting at $8 billion in 2014 and rising to $14.3 billion in 2018 and an indexed amount after that. And if an insurance provider fails to file their premiums report, they will be assessed a penalty of $10,000 plus the lesser of $1,000 times the number of days late or the amount of the tax imposed for which the report was required. This tax does not apply to employers who self-insure their employees or certain government entities. This becomes effective after December 31, 2013. And of course, the American way is to pass on any tax increases as well as additional administrative costs to customers.


HEALTH CARE LAW SAVES $3.9 BILLION ON PRESCRIPTION DRUGS FOR PEOPLE WITH MEDICARE IN 2012 ALONE

States News Service
Source: Lexis Nexis
BALTIMORE, MD

The following information was released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services:

As a result of the Affordable Care Act, over 5.2 million seniors and people with disabilities have saved over $3.9 billion on prescription drugs since the law was enacted. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) also released data today showing that in the first half of 2012, over 1 million people with Medicare saved a total of $687 million on prescription drugs in donut hole coverage gap for an average of $629 in savings this year.

Millions of people with Medicare have been paying less for prescription drugs thanks to the health care law, said CMS Acting Administrator Marilyn Tavenner. Seniors and people with disabilities have already saved close to $4 billion. In 2020, the donut hole will be closed thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

These savings are automatically applied to prescription drugs that people with Medicare purchase, after they hit the Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage gap or donut hole. Since the law was enacted, seniors and people with disabilities have had several opportunities to save on prescription drugs:

In 2010, people with Medicare who hit the donut hole received a one-time $250 rebate. These rebates totaled $946 million for 2010;

In 2011, people with Medicare began receiving a 50 percent discount on covered brand name drugs and 7 percent coverage of generic drugs in the donut hole. Last year, these discounts totaled over $2.3 billion in savings;

This year, Medicare coverage for generic drugs in the coverage gap has risen to 14 percent. For the first six months of the year, people with Medicare have saved $687 million.

Coverage for both brand name and generic drugs in the gap will continue to increase over time until 2020, when the coverage gap will be closed.