Sunday, March 4, 2012
State By State Analysis of Public Health Service Act Requirements for Employers in the United States
The Public Health Service Act of 2010 requires most employers in the United States to provide group medical insurance for their employees. Employers who choose not to comply with this law will be fined, as authorized in Section 490-H of the Internal Revenue Code. Employers with fifty or more employees are required to offer health insurance to their employees who work, on average, thirty or more hours a week. And the insurance plan must meet certain affordability standards, the employer must pay part of the cost and the plan has to meet certain eligibility requirements for enrollment equity. The global purpose of this act is to increase the proportion of people who have access to health care in the United States. Evidence of the ability to pay for medical treatment through insurance thus contributes to this goal. The data source for the fifty-state-analysis, came from the National Conference of State Legislatures web site. Also my book, Unraveling U.S. Health Care includes 50-state surveys for health care legislation as well.
Health Insurance Exchanges
Small employers are slated to enroll in regional insurance exchanges by 2014. Large employers may elect to enroll in the exchanges by 2017. The latter is the most intriguing, because initially it is thought that large employers will not choose the insurance exchanges. However, based on my experience as a former insurance broker here are some reasons why employers may ultimately choose insurance exchanges.
1. 1. The insurance exchanges will have federal compliance components built into the design and employers will not have to worry about being fined if they go through that process.
2. 2. Employers can finance and have their employees enroll in insurance exchange health plans and avoid group health insurance administration hassles by having their employees make individual elections.
3. 3. The insurance industry will see a shrinking of health care providers over time, especially in some states, so the insurance exchanges will become markets of choice.
4. 4. Insurance exchanges are slated to include strict criteria for administrative transparency and target levels for allocation of insurance premium contributions to actually pay health care claims(AKA consumers like this)
5. 5. Applying the law of large numbers, a large association of employers can expect some purchasing power and stability. In any case this is what the insurance industry has been saying for decades.
6. 6. The insurance exchanges are designed not to discriminate and once again, consumers like that.
States Which Have Authorized Health Insurance Exchanges
Despite the tumultuous cries of calamity about the insurance exchanges, nearly half of the states have already adopted laws to implement them including: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
States Which Have Pending Legislation to Authorize Health Insurance Exchanges
Alaska is working to establish its own insurance exchange. The Georgia governor signed an executive order to authorize a Health Insurance Exchange. Mississippi has a state high risk pool for insurance and it is authorized to serve as a Health Insurance Exchange provider. North Dakota plans to create its own Health Insurance Exchange by 2013, otherwise the federal government will implement one. The Rhode Island governor signed an executive order to create a Health Insurance Exchange on September 19, 2011. The Texas Office of Insurance and the Office of Health & Human Services have partnered together to create its own Health Insurance Exchange. Vermont is working on creating its own state-wide single payer health plan. There are other states with pending legislation, but they were not cited because programs were not yet specified.
States Which Have Outlawed Health Insurance Exchanges
New Hampshire SB 148 became law on July 14, 2011 and it prohibits Health Insurance Exchanges.
It is important to note that a failure to authorize an insurance exchange is not the same as a ban and no other state had banned the exchange as of the end of 2011. Further, nearly all states have accepted money to implement the exchanges, some as much as fifty million dollars, so unless they are planning on giving the money back, they will also be creating their own exchanges.
Exceptions to the Rule
First of all, any employer who wishes to self insurance under the ERISA rules can exempt itself from all of these 2010 insurance plan design requirements. What this basically means is contracting with a third party administrator to pay claims and buying reinsurance through a broker.
Secondarily, the law seeks to provide financial subsidies for small employers who heretofore have had difficulty affording health insurance. This will mean more customers for the profitable insurance industry, which will now benefit by federal government subsidies for customers who are mandated to buy their product.
Thirdly, and perhaps most lucratively, employers who are enrolled or will enroll in “Professional Association Plans” or multiple employer trusts will be able to meet the requirements of the law. These large employer plans are underwritten and managed by insurance brokerage firms. This is how the large brokerage firms deal with the small business sector; they fit them into their multiple employer association plans.
Though many insurance agents have been whining about the Public Health Services Act, the mandate for this act was promulgated by the insurance industry as a means to avoid obsolescence. Though the national insurance requirement will prove very lucrative for the industry, this does not necessarily mean it will benefit American health care purchasers to the same degree.
This article was written by Roberta E. Winter, MHA, MPA, the healthpolicymaven and may be reprinted with her permission.