Washington Update

FULL TIME HOUR DEFINITION:  At the ways and means committee, testimony about how the law’s new requirement for large employers to offer coverage to employees that work 30 hours or more a week or face penalties will hurt businesses across the country. They were pretty convinced because last Friday afternoon the House Ways and Means Committee Chairman, Representative Dave Camp (R-MI), announced that the committee would be marking up H.R. 2575, by Representative Todd Young (R-IN), that would raise the weekly hours worked total to 40 hours. There is also a very similar bipartisan bill pending in the House authored by Representative Dan Lipinski (D-IL), but the GOP leadership decided to mark up the Republican-sponsored bill instead, as it does contain slightly better language for employers.

EMPLOYER REPORTING REQUIREMENTS:  In more employer news, on Wednesday, Senators Mark Begich (D-AK), Mark Warner (D-VA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Angus King (I-ME) sent a letter to Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew about employer responsibility and information reporting requirements. The Senators specifically urged the secretary to delay reporting requirements for small-businesses while also finding a balance between “sufficient reporting to enforce the law and protect privacy, while also minimizing the compliance burden on businesses.” The group of Democratic Senators also encouraged the Treasury Department to support systems that would certify that the plans employers are offering meet minimum value and affordability requirements, which would eliminate the need for employers to report on the coverage status of their employees each month. They also asked for flexibility for employers who don’t follow calendar year plans and whose employee base is largely seasonal. In drafting the letter, the group of Senators sought input from the E-FLEX coalition and NAHU is a steering committee member of that group.

APPEALS PROCESS:  Now the enrollment and appeals concerns we’ve been pointing out for months are getting a little more public attention. And the problems may run deeper than we realized. This week the Washington Post reported the federal health insurance marketplace’s coverage appeals process doesn’t really exist yet.

Citing multiple confidential sources within CMS, the Washington Post reported that at least 22,000 people have filed paper health insurance coverage appeals since October 1. Currently those appeals, which were supposed to be resolved within 12 weeks, have been scanned into a government computer and have otherwise not been touched since the computer system to help process them has yet to be built.