CBO Raises Estimated Cost of Health Care Reforms As Employers, Health Plans Brace Costs Of Newly Effective & Impending Mandates

By Cynthia Marcotte Stamer 

New analysis  released Tuesday, May 11 by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office shows H.R. 3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Public Law 111-148 (Health Care Reform Law) passed in March will cost $115 Billion more than originally estimated in the CBO’s March 15, 2010 discretionary spending analysis. News of the cost estimate increase comes as U.S. employer and other health plan sponsors, insurers and others are bracing for the first wave of new federal health plan mandates enacted as part of the Health Care Reform Law to take effect in September and a host of other federal mandates previously enacted that take effect in the 2009 and 2010 plan years. 

Projected Cost of Health Care Reform Increased 

According to CBO, additional information about the potential effects of the Health Care Reform Law on spending funded through the annual appropriation process (discretionary spending). By their nature all such potential effects on discretionary spending are subject to future appropriation actions, which could result in greater or smaller costs than the sums authorized by the legislation. While still limited in certain respects, the updated CBO analysis provides information on the major components of such costs in three general categories: 

  • The costs that will be incurred by federal agencies to implement the new policies established by the Health Care Reform Law, such as administrative expenses for the Department of Health and Human Services and the Internal Revenue Service for carrying out key requirements of the legislation.
  • Explicit authorizations for future appropriations for a variety of grant and other program spending for which the act identifies the specific funding levels it envisions for one or more years. (Such cases include provisions where a specified funding level is authorized for an initial year along with the authorization of such sums as may be necessary for continued funding in subsequent years.)
  • Explicit authorizations for future appropriations for a variety of grant and other program spending for which no specific funding levels are identified in the legislation. That type of provision generally includes legislative language that authorizes the appropriation of “such sums as may be necessary,” often for a particular period of time.

According to the updated analysis, CBO estimates that total authorized costs in the first two categories probably exceed $115 billion over the 2010-2019 period. CBO still does not have an estimate of the potential costs of authorizations in the third category. 

CBO previously issued an estimate of the Health Care Reform Law’s direct spending and revenue effects  in combination with the Reconciliation Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-152), which amended it.  (Direct spending effects are those that do not require subsequent appropriation action.)  CBO estimated that those two laws, in combination, would produce a net reduction in federal deficits of $143 billion over the 2010-2019 period as a result of changes in direct spending and revenues. 

Impending Federal Health Plan Mandate Changes Bring New Costs, Risks Now 

CBO’s adjustment to its cost projections comes as U.S. employers and insurers already are bracing to cope with a host of new federally imposed health plan mandates and accompanying costs that already have or will in the next 12-months impact their existing health benefit programs. Examples of these new mandates include: 

  • COBRA Stimulus Bill Premium Subsidy and Other Mandates
  • New FMLA and USERRA Coverage Continuation Mandates
  • Dependent Care Coverage Extension Mandates For Students Requiring Medical Leave Effective
  • Genetic and Other Disability Discrimination Mandates under GINA, ADA Amendments Act of 2008, HIPAA Portability and Other Federal Mandates
  • Expanded Mental Health Parity Mandates
  • HIPAA Data Breach and Other Protected Health Information Privacy and Data Security Mandates
  • New IRS Excise Tax Self-Assessment & Reporting Mandates For Plans Violating COBRA, Mental Health Parity and Wide Range of Other Federal Mandates
  • Changes To Retiree Medical Subsidy Rules
  • Early Retiree Medical Reinsurance Program For Employers Providing Qualifying Retiree Coverage
  • New Small Employer Tax Credit Rules
  • Mandated extension of dependent coverage to age 26
  • Prohibition of Pre-Existing Condition Limits on Dependent Coverage
  • New restrictions on annual and lifetime benefit limitations
  • Mandate to cover 100% of preventative care
  • Prohibition against coverage rescissions
  • Primary Care Physician choice mandates
  • Restrictions on coverage limitations for emergency and obstetrical care
  • Extension of Internal Revenue Code Section 105(h) nondiscrimination mandates to certain insured health plans
  • Many others

Employer and other health plan sponsors, their insurers, administrators and others responsible for updating and administering group and other health plans must move immediately to meet these evolving mandates while bracing for anticipated increased costs and other obligations expected to result as the Health Care Reform Law takes effect over the next few years.  Employers, administrators and insurers needing additional information about these changes can review the resources and training materials available here and/or contact the author of this update, attorney and consultant Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, for assistance at (469) 767-8872 or here 

Responsible & Prompt Action Needed 

Employer and other health plan sponsors, administrators, fiduciaries and insurers both should act quickly to update their programs, plan documents, communications and practices to comply with federal mandates that have and are scheduled to take effect and stay involved with regulators and Congress as the regulatory rules and processes to implement the Health Care Reform Law are developing.  Ultimately, the cost and other implications of the Health Care Reform Law will depend largely upon how its provisions are construed and implemented by federal and state regulators, along with any subsequent adjustments, if any that Congress may elect to enact.  With federal officials hard at work preparing implementing regulations and other guidance and procedures, health industry leaders and other concerned Americans should stay informed and continue to share their input on these critical issues as these decisions are shaped.  Join the discussion by participating in the Coalition For Responsible Health Care Policy linked in group and/or its subgroup,  Project COPE: Coalition for Patient Empowerment and/or register to receive updates Coalition for Responsible Heath Care Policy by RSS Feed.Coalition for Responsible Health Care PolicyCoalition for Responsible Health Care PolicyCoalition for Responsible Health Care Policy 

The author of this update, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, recently has conducted briefings on the implications of the Affordable Care Act and other regulatory changes impacting health plans and their employer and other sponsors, insurers, administrators and others for the Society of Professional Benefits Administrators, the Dallas Bar Association and others.  Several other presentations and update are scheduled in the upcoming months.  For information about these programs or to register to receive information about these programs, see here.   

About Ms. Stamer 

Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, management attorney and consultant Ms. Stamer is nationally and internationally recognized for more than 22 years of work helping businesses manage labor and employment, employee benefits, performance management and discipline, compliance and internal controls, risk management, and public policy matters including significant, cutting edge experience advising employer and other health plan sponsors, fiduciaries, insurers, administrators and others design, administer, and defend defensible, cost-effective health and other employee benefit programs.   

The Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Committee, a Council Representative on the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, Government Affairs Committee Legislative Chair for the Dallas Human Resources Management Association, Vice President of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, and the editor and publisher of Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update and other Solutions Law Press Publications Ms. Stamer also is recognized for her publications, industry leadership, workshops and presentations on these and other health industry and human resources concerns. She regularly speaks and conducts training for the ABA, American Health Lawyers Association (AHLA), Health Care Compliance Association, Institute of Internal Auditors, Harris County Medical Society, the Medical Group Management Association, Society for Professional Benefits Administrators, Southwest Benefits Association, Harris County Medical Society, Medical Group Management Association, Society of Human Resources Management, and many other organizations.  Publishers of her many highly regarded writings on health industry and human resources matters include the Bureau of National Affairs, Aspen Publishers, ABA, AHLA, Aspen Publishers, Schneider Publications, Spencer Publications, World At Work, SHRM, HCCA, State Bar of Texas, Business Insurance, James Publishing and many others.  You can review other highlights of Ms. Stamer’s experience hereHer insights on these and other matters appear in Managed Care Executive, Modern Health Care, the Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Business Journal, the Houston Business Journal, MDNews, Kentucky Physician, and many other national and local publications.  

If you need help with human resources or other management, concerns, wish to ask about compliance, risk management or training, or need legal representation on other matters please contact Cynthia Marcotte Stamer here or (469)767-8872.  

Other Resources 

If you found this information of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing other updates and publications by Ms. Stamer including: 

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