Last Monday, a federal judge in Virginia said he would rule before the end of the year on whether the health reform legislation violates the Constitution. The judge conceded that his ruling would likely be just a small step on the legislation’s way to the Supreme Court.
HHS said it will award nearly $30 million in consumer assistance grants to help states and territories either establish or strengthen programs that provide direct services to patients related to their health insurance. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the grants to 35 states, four territories and the District of Columbia at a news conference.
Donald M. Berwick, administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said this week that the planned Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMI) has the potential to be the “jewel in the crown” of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The CMI, established by PPACA and expected to be in place by January, will be dedicated to testing innovative approaches to improving healthcare delivery, payment and quality.
On Thursday, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners endorsed a proposed federal regulation that would guarantee a certain portion of health-insurance premiums are spent on medical care. Insurance companies see the proposed rules as a setback because they did not include any insurance-company-proposed amendments.
On Friday, Reps. Joe L. Barton (R-TX), Michael C. Burgess (R-TX), and John Shimkus (R-IL) wrote Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius with a series of questions about the temporary exemptions from PPACA’s $750,000 floor on annual benefits granted to 30 groups, including McDonalds, Jack in the Box and the United Federation of Teachers Welfare Fund. In their letter, the representatives asked: which companies were granted annual limits waivers and how many employees would be affected, whether any companies were denied such a waiver, whether any companies have asked for a medical loss ratio waiver and whether any were granted, and how the waivers affect the budget outlook for the healthcare reform law since they affect predicted coverage requirements and penalties for non-compliance.
Numerous reporters and commentators continue to point out that while few Democrats are using PPACA as a campaign plank, many Republicans are. There was also some speculation in the news as to whether Republican victories in statehouses next week might lead to more states “climbing on the health care lawsuit bandwagon.”