On June 28, 2012—the last day of the 2011 term—the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision, with Chief Justice Roberts writing for the majority, that the individual mandate provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the “Act”) is constitutional based on Congress’s taxing power. A key passage read from the bench by Chief Justice Roberts is as follows:
On June 28, 2012, the United States Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act’s (“ACA”) individual mandate in a long-anticipated decision on the constitutionality of the ACA. The Court upheld the ACA’s individual mandate under Congress’ taxing power, and also held that the lawsuits challenging the ACA were not barred by the anti-injunction act. The Court, however, found the ACA’s Medicaid expansion unconstitutional because it “threaten[ed] States with the loss of their existing Medicaid funding if they decline to comply with the expansion.”
The full slip opinion may be accessed here.
On April 12, 2012, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) released a final rule with comment period (“Final Rules”) implementing changes to the Medicare Advantage program and Medicare’s prescription drug benefit program, referred to as Medicare Parts C and D, respectively. Part C and D plan sponsors and other participants should carefully review the changes, particularly those related to increased transparency and exclusion from Parts C and D. The Final Rules are the latest effort by CMS to improve accountability, transparency, and effectiveness of the Medicare program.
On February 9, 2012, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Labor, and the Department of the Treasury jointly issued final regulations pursuant to the Affordable Care Act regarding plain-language health insurance plan descriptions. Health insurers will soon be required to present health plan benefits and coverage information in a clear, consistent and comparable manner.
On January 13, 2012 CMS issued Transmittal 153, implementing section 3108 of the Affordable Care Act which now allows physician assistants to perform level of care certifications and recertifications in skilled nursing facilities. The physician assistant may perform the certification or recertification if the physician assistant collaborates with the physician but does not have a direct or indirect employment relationship with the facility. The new transmittal will be implemented on February 13, 2012 and the changes will be effective with items and services furnished on or after January 1, 2011.
Read CMS’ full transmittal here.
On December 20, 2011 the Supreme Court of the United States set the date to hear challenges to the health care reform law. On March 26 – 28 the Court will hear five-and-a-half hours of oral argument on the several challenges to the Affordable Care Act that are currently pending before the Court. The first day is reserved for oral argument on the federal anti-injunction act’s effect on commerce clause challenges to the Affordable Care Act, and on the second day the Court will hear the long-anticipated argument on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate. The final day is reserved for argument on the severability of the individual mandate and the constitutionality of the Medicaid expansion created through the Affordable Care Act.
On December 16, 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently issued a guidance bulletin detailing its current thinking on the implementation of ‘essential health benefits’ (EHB) under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Specifically, the bulletin addresses covered services under the ACA’s mandate that certain insurers provide EHB by 2014. The ACA defines EHB as:
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued its final rule today establishing the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan (CO-OP) program. The CO-OP program was established to provide financial support, in the form of loans, for the creation of non-profit, private, consumer-governed health insurance companies that will be qualified to offer insurance plans through the ACA’s health insurance exchange markets. As CMS described in the final rule, the goal of the CO-OP plans is to increase the number of plans that are focused on integrated care and plan accountability, as well as to increase competition and promote efficiencies, premium reductions, and improve enrollee services and benefits. This final rule establishes a two-year time frame for CO-OP plans to transition to member-elected boards, clarifies that certain existing insurers are ineligible for funding, and sets forth the instances in which CO-OP plans may receive state or local government funding. The final rule likewise describes the CO-OP’s obligation to remain compliant with state and federal standards for insurers.
Read the full text of the rule here.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently cited as “excessive” a 12% insurance rate increase proposed by Everest Insurance under a Pennsylvania insurance plan. HHS’ finding that the rate increase was excessive was the first such move under the Affordable Care Act, which gives HHS the authority to review insurance rate increases over 10% and cite them as excessive. Although the Affordable Care Act does not give HHS the authority to sanction insurers attempting to push through excessive rate increases, the hope is that publicizing the excessive rate increases will increase transparency and accountability.
Read HHS’ full news release here.
vIn a highly anticipated decision, on November 14, 2011 the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari in three cases on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”): National Federation of Independent Business v. Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of HHS, et al.; Florida, et al. v. Department of Health and Human Services; and Department of Health & Human Services et al. v. Florida, et al. The Court’s review will address four fundamental questions: (1) whether the ACA’s individual mandate is constitutional, (2) whether the individual mandate may be severed from the ACA if it is unconstitutional, (3) whether the claim brought by the opponents to the mandate is barred by another federal statute, and (4) whether the ACA’s expansion to Medicaid coverage was valid. The Court has granted a total of four and a half hours of oral argument for the three issues, which is highly unusual. This decision will be monumental for the future of the ACA, and will be closely followed by Duane Morris attorneys.
View the United States Supreme Court’s order here.