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Empowering Plans: P62 - Obamacare is Still the Law, Right?

Ron and Brady dissect the Texas decision that challenges the legality of the ACA, what it actually means, and what is next – as well as what you could (should?) be doing now.

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The Kavanaugh Hearings: The Future of Abortion and Obamacare at Stake

By: Brady Bizarro, Esq.

 

After more than thirty-two hours of testimony (and a record number of interruptions) before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Kavanaugh finally concluded last Friday. Republicans have already set a date for a vote and plan to have him seated for the Supreme Court’s new term, which begins in early October. Democratic opposition to Judge Kavanaugh is multi-faceted, but for our purposes, specifically related to health law, many fear he would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade and strike down the Affordable Care Act’s (“ACA”) pre-existing condition protections. Given the fact that a case to overturn ACA protections is currently sitting before a federal court in Texas, the Supreme Court may indeed be asked to weigh in sooner rather than later.

 

Judge Kavanaugh, like many nominees before him, refused to give assurances on specific hypotheticals. After all, he argued, independent judges should not give a thumbs up or thumbs down before litigants have appeared before them in court. Senators knew ahead of time that Kavanaugh would answer hypotheticals about abortion rights and the ACA in this way; yet, many of them still asked such questions in a rhetorical fashion to dramatize their points. A more effective strategy, at least politically, would have been to ask rhetorical questions, but also to ask Judge Kavanaugh about specific wording he used in prior dissents to expose signals that the judge might be prepared to overturn Roe v. Wade and/or the ACA.

 

Of all the committee members that questioned Judge Kavanaugh (and I watched them all), Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) did this most effectively. The senator asked Judge Kavanaugh about his dissent in a case called Garza v. Hargan, the only abortion case on which the nominee has ruled. In that case, Judge Kavanaugh wrote that his colleagues on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals had decided that “unlawful immigrant minors have a right to immediate abortion on demand.” To Senator Blumenthal, this was a coded message to the White House. The phrase “abortion on demand,” according to the senator, is often used by the anti-abortion community to refer to repeal of Roe v. Wade.

 

In addition, in a 2003 memo, Judge Kavanaugh noted that the Supreme Court “can always overrule” Roe v. Wade. In particular, he wrote, “I am not sure that all legal scholars refer to Roe as the settled law of the land at the Supreme Court level since [the] Court can always overrule its precedent,” adding that some conservative justices then on the Court “would do so.” Finally, Senator Blumenthal noticed Kavanaugh’s description of Roe as “existing precedent.” In his review of hundreds of Judge Kavanaugh’s prior opinions, Senator Blumenthal could not find the use of the adjective “existing” before the word “precedent.” To the senator from Connecticut, this implies that Judge Kavanaugh believes that there will be a time when Roe can be overturned and will no longer be the legal precedent on abortion.

 

Regardless of the Democratic opposition, the simple fact remains that Republicans, in solidarity, have enough votes to confirm him. Unless something dramatic happens between now and the end of September, we can expect Judge Kavanaugh to soon become Justice Kavanaugh, the newest member of the United States Supreme Court. When cases reach the Court that deal with abortion rights and the ACA, we will learn whether or not Senator Blumenthal’s concern was warranted.


Behind Closed Doors
By: Brady C. Bizarro, Esq.

Anyone paying attention to national politics in the past six months knows that Washington has a problem with leaks; leaks from the White House, leaks from the intelligence community, and unsurprisingly, leaks from Capitol Hill. While many of these leaks come from “anonymous” sources and some are later debunked, they can be extremely damaging to both administration officials and lawmakers. Leaks, however, are not typically an issue in the legislative process. This is because, although legislation is not usually made public until it reaches a congressional committee, Congress routinely holds public hearings, meetings, and roundtable discussions after introducing legislation that could have a significant impact on domestic policy. This time around, however, Republican leaders have chosen to write their health care bill behind closed doors, and that decision should worry employers, insurers, and providers alike.

Back in March, the Washington Post reported that the House bill to repeal and replace Obamacare was being kept secret in an undisclosed room in the U.S. Capitol. This led Republican Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky) on a rather public quest to find the bill and to demand that his House colleagues show him the secret draft. Eventually, a draft leaked to the press, causing Republicans significant grief and making the task of passing the legislation that much more difficult. The Senate has also chosen secrecy, opting not to hold any public meetings on their version of a repeal and replace bill. The strategy seems to be to wait until the Senate has enough votes to pass the bill before unveiling it. Unsurprisingly, an outline of that bill emerged last week and is now causing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) many headaches.

According to the leaked outline, the Senate bill requires insurance companies to offer coverage to people with preexisting conditions and, unlike the House bill, it prohibits them from charging sick people higher premiums. The outline still permits states to seek waivers that would permit insurers to decide not to cover essential health benefits. This effectively means that insurers can reinstate lifetime and annual limits on coverage since the ban on limits applies only to essential health benefits. Finally, the outline reveals that heavy cuts to Medicaid are still planned, but are pushed out a few more years. In short, these changes represent a compromise between hardline conservatives who want a full repeal of Obamacare and moderate Republicans who are concerned about the impact on low-income Americans and those with pre-existing conditions.

Since we do not know for sure what the final bill will look like, it is futile to try to assess its impact on the health care industry as a whole and on the self-insurance industry in particular. Still, one conclusion we can draw is that the legislative strategy at play is creating substantial uncertainty for our industry. When the Affordable Care Act was being passed, Democrats held public hearings involving industry experts, advocacy groups, and other key stakeholders. While the bill was far from perfect, at least interest groups got the chance to give their input and to discuss their concerns in an open forum. By writing their health care reform bill behind closed doors, Republicans are making themselves susceptible to leaks and to charges that they shut key stakeholders out of the process. It remains to be seen if this strategy is more or less likely to produce a bill that works for the health insurance industry and the American people.

The First 100 Days: President-elect Donald Trump, Healthcare, and Self-Funding
The election is behind us, and no matter who you supported, it was one of the most divisive in recent history. Regarding the contentious topic of healthcare, President-elect Donald Trump has promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with a better, more efficient system. The future of our industry is sure to change.

Thank you for joining The Phia Group as we shared our predictions in a special-edition webinar. It’s going to be an interesting year…

Click here to download the slides.
Click here to download the video.
Click here to download the audio.

1st Quarter Newsletter 2014
Well… “ObamaCare” is here, and so are we.  The sun continues to rise in the east, and set in the west; and business goes on.  Some of you have reaped the benefits of change, while others have suffered; but the reality is that for most of the industry, not much has changed.

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Looking Forward to 2013 - The Phia Group Looks Back at 2012 and Forward to 2013
Looking Forward to 2013 - The Phia Group Looks Back at 2012 and Forward to 2013

If you thought 2012 was a wild ride, wait until you see 2013.  Obamacare is the law of the land, and it’s here to stay.  The entities empowered by PPACA to issue mandates are prepared to unleash a tidal wave of regulations in 2013.  Subrogation and coordination of benefits once again appear before the Supreme Court.  The very definition of self-funding, rights under ERISA, and access to stop-loss have come under attack.  Join The Phia Group’s CEO, Adam V. Russo, Sr. V.P. and General Counsel, Ron E. Peck, and V.P. of Consulting Services, Jennifer McCormick, as they discuss what we can expect to see in 2013, and how best to prepare for what’s coming.

Click here to download webinar


The Bay State Crystal Ball - How Massachusetts May Predict the Future for America's Healthcare
The Bay State Crystal Ball - How Massachusetts May Predict the Future for America's Healthcare

Click here to download webinar

Mitt Romney has been distancing himself from the healthcare reform he signed into law whilst governing Massachusetts.  His team has responded to comparisons between “Romneycare” and “Obamacare,” stating that the two laws are vastly different, and vary based on scope of coverage, communities they apply to, and terms themselves.  That being said, we can still draw many parallels between the two.  Those of us who fail to look at the Bay State as a prototype for post-PPACA America are missing an opportunity to gaze into the future.  From early successes, to a gradual bloating of the program… from red-tape, to recent moves to address the actual cost of care… the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is certainly a crystal ball.  Join us as we dissect The Phia Group’s home state, and attempt to predict the nation’s future.