The ranks of the nation’s uninsured declined in January as expanded health insurance coverage was demonstrated under the Affordable Care Act.

Affordable Care Act, ACA, health insurance, Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, health care coverage, health benefits, National Association of Chain Drug Stores, NACDS, Steve Anderson, Health and Human Services department, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, White House, pharmacy, Chris Smith, Medicaid, subsidies, federal district judge Paul Friedman, tax credits

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Inside This Issue - News

NACDS keeps tabs on ACA launch

February 3rd, 2014

WASHINGTON – The ranks of the nation’s uninsured declined in January as expanded health insurance coverage was demonstrated under the Affordable Care Act.

According to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, the rate for adults lacking health care coverage fell by 1.2 percentage points to 16.1, an indication that 2 million to 3 million individuals had secured health insurance.

Separately, the Obama administration has opted to postpone enforcement of a provision under the health care law that prohibits employers from providing better benefits to top executives than to other employees. The delay was approved because specific regulations for employers to follow in this area had yet to be issued.

The Internal Revenue Office conceded that it was still dealing with questions over how to measure the value of employee health benefits, the definition of “highly compensated’’ and how to interpret discrimination.

Beginning next year, companies with 50 or more full-time employees must offer insurance plans that adhere to basic coverage requirements or face a penalty of $2,000 per employee.
Other rules penalize companies for only offering plans that are too skimpy or too costly.

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores is keeping abreast of ongoing ACA developments. In a recent e-newsletter to association members, president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson wrote that NACDS has continued to hold frequent meetings and conference calls regarding the ACA with representatives of the Health and Human Services department and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as well as White House officials.

“During those meetings, NACDS urged consumer communications to the newly insured to take certain steps to limit confusion when they visited a pharmacy or other ­provider for the first time,’’ ­Anderson wrote.

“NACDS also urged the availability of call centers and of plan representatives during the transition and made the case for additional steps to improve operational efficiency.’’

In his correspondence, Anderson suggested members that experience “systemic problems’’ that may arise with the adjudication of claims to contact NACDS director of federal public policy Chris Smith, who is serving as the association’s point of contact for such­ ­information.

One analysis shows that although many individuals who to date have signed up for private insurance through the exchanges had some type of prior coverage, most of those gaining coverage under the Medicaid expansion segment were previously uninsured. Generally, those who have been uninsured have been found to be sicker and to die at a younger age than those with coverage.

In a related development, a federal judge last month upheld the legality of subsidies for some individuals to purchase insurance through either the federal or state-operated exchanges. Opponents have taken the position that the subsidies should be awarded only to those residing in states that have established their own ­exchanges.

“Congress believed that the [ACA] would address the lack of access by many Americans to affordable health care and would lead to near-universal coverage,’’ wrote federal district judge Paul Friedman.

“The plain text of the statute, the statutory structure and the statutory purpose make clear that Congress intended to make premium tax credits available on both state-run and federally facilitated exchanges.’’

The federal government runs the exchange serving 36 states.