Here Comes the Rain

The old saying is April showers bring May flowers, but the rain has already started here in Washington when it comes to healthcare regulations being pushed out in 2013. On Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services announced it will release 700 pages of regulations in the next two weeks to implement the Affordable Care Act. I sure hope the healthcare is more affordable than what it costs to print the regulations stemming from the new law, but I guess when a law is nearly 3,000 pages and says “The Secretary shall…” over 1,000 times we should expect that.

The latest reg-dump on Friday covers some important ground on premium-stabilization provisions of the law and they will provide a little more clarity on how much healthcare costs will increase ($65 per policy), but it’s still only part of the overall picture. There are less than seven months before the Affordable Care Act needs to stand on its own and start running. By most estimates, there are at least 10-12 significant rules that have to be worked out before October. This raises an interesting question, what needs to be done? I refer to it as the Regulatory Triple-Lindy, and it has a high degree of difficulty.

In the next 211 days, entirely new data collections and processing systems need to be up and online in order to determine who is eligible for what program and when. Insurers need to know whether their products will pass new federal rules, what their prices are going to be, make contracts with providers and decide which markets to enter sometime before October in order to give employers time to do what they need to do. Small employers need to know what their coverage options cost, what kind of choices they have available to them and how the SHOP exchanges will work before October 1. The public needs to be educated about their options, understand those new products, compare plan options, and choose a plan before January 1 or pay a fine.  All of these things need to fit together seamlessly in order for this to work.

The NAM Human Resources Policy staff will be going through the 700 pages as fast as we can. The forecast for the next 211 days, however, is cloudy, with patchy fog and a 100 percent chance of precipitation – icy conditions are possible in shaded areas.

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