Monday, April 25, 2011

Reports on reform coming your way

Health reform watchers know that the 2011 budget deal signed by President Obama on April 15 stripped the free choice voucher provisions from the ACA.

Observers may not know, however, that a lesser known provision in the budget act ensures that they've got a whole lot of reading to look forward to in the coming months. (For you extra wonky types: the provision is Act Sec. 1856 of P.L. 112-10.)

Why? Congress has mandated the production of two waves of federal agency reports on the cost or efficacy of various ACA provisions. The first wave is due to hit around June 15 (60 days after enactment) with the second wave to follow around July 15 (90 days after enactment).

Extra scrutiny. Which ACA provisions merited extra scrutiny in the eyes of the (Republican?) members of Congress who asked for these reports? Here's the list:

--Implementation contractors. The GAO must provide a list of contractors (including how much they're getting paid) hired by HHS and other agencies to implement ACA provisions.
--Requests for annual limit waivers. The GAO must also conduct an audit of the requests for waiver of the annual limit requirements of PHSA Sec. 2711(a).
--Premium costs. CMS's Chief Actuary must prepare a report that estimates the impact of the guaranteed issue, guaranteed renewal, and community rating requirements in the Act over a 10-year period beginning in 2014. Will more people see a decrease in premium costs, or an increase?
--Comparative effectiveness research funding. The GAO must also audit funds spent for comparative effectiveness research by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the National Institutes of Health and other agencies.

For a comprehensive analysis of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and additional information on health reform and other developments in employee benefits, just click here.


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