As the Senate rushes to complete work on financial services legislation, odds are dimming that an amendment to the bill establishing a health insurance rate regulatory authority would even get a vote.
The authority would be established under the aegis of the Department of Health and Human Services under terms of the amendment, sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif..
The amendment had not even been introduced by press time, and with the Senate hoping to complete work on the bill by Tuesday, May 20, industry lobbyists said it was unlikely the amendment will get a public airing.
Meanwhile, an effort by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, to add a provision to the bill ending the antitrust exemption for health insurers also appeared unlikely to even be considered by the full Senate.
“We would oppose both amendments if they were considered,” said Joel Kopperud, a director of government relations at the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers.
The Department of Health and Human Services is moving quickly on measures that will have a direct impact on brokers and their clients, Kopperud said.
Agent trade groups’ primary focus is on getting input on which services would be defined as medical expenses in the new medical loss ratio regulations that will be effective in September, Kopperud said. This would also establish dollar limits on those services.
“We are engaging HHS on both issues,” Kopperud said. “Sensible MLR definitions need to be written to avoid reducing the availability of preventive care and disease management services, just to name a few that may be cut if we see definitions that are too restrictive.”
CIAB is also concerned about the fate of consumers insured under limited medical benefit plans, he said.
“Our concern here is that if these plans do not meet new annual dollar limit guidelines, over a million Americans may be left without health insurance until the exchanges are built in 2014,” Kopperud said. “We are seeking clarity on the issue and encouraging HHS to ensure the plans remain available until 2014.”
Among other developments, the Obama administration last week published final regulations implementing a provision of the new law that enables young adults under 26 to obtain coverage under their parents’ health care plans.
Under the policy, insurers will be required to allow such coverage for any American under the age of 26 who doesn’t get health insurance through their job.
The provision was scheduled to go into effect in September, noted Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, in a letter. But because health insurers are cooperating with the agency, it will go into effect immediately.
So far, every major insurance company–more than 65 in total–and several major self-insured organizations have said they will provide continuous coverage for young adults this summer, she said. She estimated that premiums are only expected to rise 7% because of early implementation.
“And it’s not a bad deal for insurance companies or employers either,” she said.