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From Health Law Daily, July 18, 2013

Obama highlights health reform’s benefits the day after the House votes to officially delay employer and individual mandate

By Paul Clark

President Obama on Thursday, July 18 touted key benefits of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) (P.L. 111-148), the day after the House of Representatives approved two bills that would officially codify the delay in the employer and individual mandate included in the reform bill.

Obama’s remarks focused on the refunds that 8.5 million consumers received in 2012 from health insurance companies. The refunds are a direct result of PPACA’s requirement that insurance companies meet minimum medical loss ratios or refund the difference to consumers. Large group plans (plans with 101 or more employees) must spend 85 percent of their premium revenue on health care, as opposed to administrative expense and salaries. The minimum medical loss ratio for individual and small group plans is 80 percent.

The President also highlighted news from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo that the average premium for an individual health insurance policy purchased through the New York Health Benefits Exchange will drop by over 50 percent for the 2014 plan year. He said, “despite all the evidence that the law is working the way it was supposed to for middle-class Americans, Republicans in the House of Representatives voted -- for nearly the 40th time -- to dismantle it.”

House vote. On July 17, by a 264-161 vote largely along party lines, the House approved the “Authority for Mandate Delay Act” (HR 2667), which would delay by one year PPACA’s employer mandate. The Obama Administration had announced on July 2 that it was delaying until 2015 implementation of the requirement that employers with 50 or more employees provide qualified health insurance for their employees, or pay a penalty. The announcement, which came from the Treasury Department, noted that the Administration had “heard concerns about the complexity of the requirements and the need for more time to implement them effectively.”

By a 251-174 vote, the House also approved the “Fairness for American Families Act” (HR 2668), which would amend sec. 5000A of the Internal Revenue Code, as amended by PPACA, to delay until 2015 the effective date of the mandate for individuals to carry health insurance, or pay a penalty.

The House has had almost 40 votes since 2010 to either repeal the entire health reform law, or to eliminate or scale back some of parts of the law. While the Senate has never taken a vote to repeal the entire law, some legislation introduced in the House has eventually been enacted, mainly laws that reduce funding to implement the law.

House Appropriations Committee. Also on July 17, the House Appropriations Committee approved the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Bill, 2014, which includes provisions that would limit the implementation of the health reform law. The legislation would prohibit funding to implement the individual mandate and prohibit transfers from HHS to fund the Internal Revenue Services’ implementation of PPACA. HHS has transferred $500 million to the IRS since 2010 for PPACA implementation purposes. The legislation also specifically states that no funds appropriated by the bill would be available to pay for an abortion, or administrative expenses in connection with any health plan which provides any benefits or coverage for abortions, such as expenses relating to the new health insurance Exchanges that will be operational in the fall of 2013.

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