Posts Tagged ‘waivers’

Congress Tackles Health Reform Issues in Lame-duck Session

Congress took aim at two contentious issues under the health care reform law in this week of the lame-duck session. One has to do with the law’s requirement that businesses file tax forms beginning in 2012 for every vendor that sells them more than $600 in goods. The other concerns “bare bones” or “mini med” plans that many low-wage employers now offer to their employees.

Lawmakers in both parties oppose the 1099 filing requirement, and in his day-after-the-midterms press conference President Obama signaled it out as one area where the law might need to be changed. Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont) and Make Johanns (R-Neb). introduced measures to repeal the requirement, but on Monday failed to get the necessary two-thirds majority to pass it.

During a Senate hearing scheduled for Wednesday, Senate Democrats “plan to detail how restaurants, pet-store outlets and hair salons are offering workers health-insurance policies with low caps on annual benefit payouts that leave workers footing the bill for care,” the Wall St. Journal reported today.

McDonald’s HR director is also expected to testify on his chain’s mini-med plan that covers nearly 30,000 of its employees. In fact, it was McDonald’s plan that first put the spotlight on these bare-bones plans.

Democrats are concerned that such plans mislead employees in thinking they have health insurance when in fact the payouts are too low to cover employees’ costs of care.

Mini-med plans are expected to recede in importance once health insurance purchasing credits kick in under the new law in 2014, but in the meantime some members of Congress may push for more regulation on these plans.

The Obama Administration is caught in-between the competing demands of Democrats for more regulation and employers’ defense of the status quo. In recent weeks, regulators at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services granted dozens of waivers to mini-med providers so they can keep the caps on annual payments. Last week, the administration said that mini-med plans could spend half as much as traditional carriers on medical care — rather than on administrative overhead — under new rules that take effect in 2011.

Stay tuned…