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Kansas rep lobbies for HSAs

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Rep. Lynn Jenkins is trying to persuade federal regulators to make room for health account plans as they fine-tune health coverage actuarial value regulations.

Jenkins, R-Kan., is asking President Obama to get the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to ease up on sellers of the high-deductible health plans that are compatible with health savings accounts (HSAs).

Proposed HHS regulations and interim final HHS regulations would discriminate against HSA-compatible high-deductible plans, Jenkins wrote in a letter sent to Obama today.

If HHS starts applying the regulations, “HSAs will be scarce and expensive,” Jenkins said, according to a copy of the letter posted by the Employers Council on Flexible Compensation (ECFC), a group that represents users, sellers and administrators of benefit plans.

If HHS keeps the current version of the actuarial valuation regulations in effect, it could strangle the HSA program, Jenkins said.

Actuarial value

HHS officials are working on the actuarial valuation regulations and related regulations to implement Section 1302 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA).  

PPACA is supposed to create a new system of health insurance exchanges, or Web-based insurance supermarkets. If the system works as PPACA drafters hope, individuals and small businesses will use new PPACA tax credit subsidies to buy health coverage through the exchanges.

To help consumers and employers compare the plans sold through the exchanges, PPACA drafters created a “metal level” system.

Insurers are supposed to offer exchange users bronze-, silver-, gold- or platinum-level plans. A plan’s “metal” level will depend on how far the plan goes toward paying for the cost of a standardized package of “essential health benefits” (EHB).

Any plan sold through the exchange must cover at least 60 percent of the actuarial value of the EHB package. A bronze-level plan would cover 60 percent of the actuarial value of the EHB package, and a platinum-level plan would cover 90 percent of the actuarial value.

HHS officials have suggested that they might include the full value of employer HSA contributions when computing the combined value of a high-deductible health plan and a HSA or health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) program.
Officials may exclude the employee contribution when computing a health account plan’s actuarial value.

The Obama letter

When Jenkins wrote her letter to Obama, she included a passage from a letter Obama sent to Congress.

Obama said in the earlier letter that he thought insurers could still offer high-deductible health plans in a PPACA system.

“I’m open to including language to ensure that is clear,” Obama told Congress in the letter, according to Jenkins.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has written in an op-ed of her own that states should still be able to allow the sale of HSA plans, Jenkins reported.

Obama should tell Sebelius to change the actuarial value rules to make sure insurers really can still sell HSA-compatible insurance, Jenkins said.

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