July 23, 2014

Legislation and Policy News

GAO Investigation Reveals “Holes” In ACA Subsidy Verification System.
The AP(7/22) reports that GAO investigators “using fake identities were able to obtain taxpayer-subsidized health insurance under” the Affordable Care Act “in 11 out of 18 attempts.” According to the AP, at a Wednesday hearing of the House Ways and Means Committee, Seto Bagdoyan, “head of GAO audits and investigations, will also testify that there’s still a huge backlog of applications with data discrepancies, even though the administration has resolved some 600,000 cases.”
The New York Times(7/23, Times, Subscription Publication) reports that the GAO concluded from its tests that “the Obama administration was not adequately verifying information submitted by applicants.” The Hill(7/23, Al-Faruque) refers to the vulnerabilities revealed by GAO investigation as “holes in the ObamaCare sign up system.”
Also reporting on the story are the Wall Street Journal(7/23, Armour, Subscription Publication) and NBC News(7/23, Fox).

Maryland Transgender State Employees Granted Access To Gender Reassignment Treatments Under State Insurance.
The Baltimore Sun(7/23, Rector) reports that transgender state employees in Maryland “can now access gender reassignment surgery, hormone therapy and other transition-related care under their state-provided health insurance plans.” This may prompt changes in private insurance plans. The paper further reports that the Maryland Insurance Administration issued a bulletin “informing insurance carriers in the state that they can’t discriminate against transgender patients in January, but stopped short of requiring carriers to cover reassignment surgery or other transition care.”
Federal Judge Dismisses Johnson’s Lawsuit Against Congressional ACA Subsidies.
In continuing coverage, the Washington Post(7/22, Harrison) “On Small Business” column reports that a Federal court ruling will allow members of Congress to “continue buying health insurance through the new marketplaces intended for small businesses.” US Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), who instigated the suit, claimed that “The Obama administration violated its own signature health care law by giving special treatment to members of Congress and their staffs.”
Administration Developing Work-Around For Nonprofits To Ensure Contraception Coverage.
The Washington Post(7/22, Somashekhar, Barnes) reports that in a legal brief filed with the US Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver, the Obama Administration said it is developing “a work-around to ensure that employees of certain charities, hospitals and colleges whose leaders have religious objections to contraceptives can still get birth control through their employee health insurance plans.” The move comes “in response to a recent Supreme Court order questioning the government’s current process for allowing nonprofit organizations to opt out of a requirement that their health plans cover all contraceptives that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.”
The AP(7/23) reports that Wheaton College, the Christian institution at the center of the Supreme Court decision in question, claims even filling out the Form 700, which “lets faith-affiliated groups transfer responsibility for paying for birth control to insurers or third-party administrators” makes the group “complicit by forcing it to participate in a system that subsidizes coverage they oppose.” It is unclear what form the opt-out will take so it remains to be seen if the alternative will be “any less objectionable.”
The Administration’s willingness to take up this issue is a departure from the opinion of the Justice Department, which according to The Hill(7/23, Al-faruque) had argued that “the college falls under the ‘accommodation’ category cited in the recent Hobby Lobby case which exempts it from directly paying for worker’s contraception.” As part of the accommodation, The Justice Department felt that the college “should be required to fill out the form so third-party insurers can use it to get tax credits.”
Also reportong on this “work-around” are the Wall Street Journal (7/23, Radnofsky, Subscription Publication), the Los Angeles Times (7/23, Hennessey), Politico (7/23, Kenen), the Huffington Post(7/23, Bassett), and Reuters(7/23).

Original Article can be found at the