Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Health care was a dominant issue at the national level and in Congress in 2010. Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, businesses, individuals and states have been trying to determine how to comply with the law and what impact it will have on them. With the size and complexity of the law, the transition has not been smooth. Last month, the Obama Administration announced a delay in the employer mandate. This mandate requires businesses with more than 50 employees to provide health coverage to their employees, or pay a fine if one or more of their employees receives a tax credit through the exchange.
You may also have heard of the individual mandate. This mandate will require all individuals who can afford health insurance to purchase a minimally-comprehensive policy. Those who do not carry health insurance will be assessed a fine based on a specified dollar amount, or a designated percentage of their income, whichever is the higher amount. The penalty will be assessed as a federal tax liability. The constitutionality of this mandate was challenged. In June of last year, the U.S. Supreme Court said in a complex opinion that the individual mandate was a valid tax and within Congress's tax-and-spend powers.
One of the important decisions for states when it comes to Obamacare is whether or not to establish a state health benefit exchange. An exchange is a state-based health insurance marketplace for individuals and small businesses. The intent of an exchange is to make health insurance more affordable and accessible, but time will tell if both goals are met. Our state opted for an exchange and is currently in the process of implementing it. This process must be completed by 2014. The Office of the Insurance Commissioner recently announced it had approved the individual health plans and rates of four health insurance companies to sell in our state's exchange, the Healthplanfinder, beginning October 1.
There are additional health-care related issues being addressed at the state level. Below are some pieces of legislation that passed this year in the Legislature:
- House Bill 1216 concerns the treatment of eosinophilia gastrointestinal associated disorders.
- House Bill 1471 updates and aligns with federal requirements hospital health-care associated infection rate reporting.
- House Bill 1480 allows a direct practice to pay for charges associated with the dispensing of an initial supply of generic prescription drugs prescribed by the direct provider – at no additional cost to the direct patient.
- Senate Bill 5148 allows for the redistribution of medications under certain conditions.
- Senate Bill 5216 changes the claim-denial requirements for long-term care insurance policies sold after January 2009.
Here are some links you might find interesting or useful:
- Washington Health Benefit Exchange (Healthplanfinder): http://www.wahealthplanfinder.org
- Search insurance rates: http://www.insurance.wa.gov/health-rates/Search.aspx
- Washington Office of the Insurance Commissioner: http://www.oic.wa.gov
In your service,