As I noted last month, as we've reached the 3rd anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic hitting U.S. shores and with the Public Health Emergency winding down, it's become more & more difficult for data analysts and researchers to acquire comprehensive, county-level data about cases, hospitalizations, deaths, vaccinations and so forth.
Today, Secretaries Xavier Becerra, Marty Walsh, and Janet L. Yellen of the U.S. Departments of Health & Human Services, Labor and Treasury (Departments), respectively, issued a letter to group health plans and health insurance issuers reminding them of their obligations under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to provide coverage for contraceptive services at no cost.
In all fifty states, the ACA guarantees coverage of women’s preventive services, including free birth control and contraceptive counseling, for individuals and covered dependents. Recent reports have shown that some issuers and plans may not be appropriately providing this coverage. The letter is another step for the Departments to put the industry on notice for the required coverage and demand prompt action to ensure that people can rightfully access the birth control they need.
Becerra Pressed On Surprise Billing, Short-Term Plans, Medicare
Lawmakers from both parties pressed HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra over surprise billing implementation, Medicare policy and non-ACA-compliant plans, including the Trump-era short-term plans and Association Health Plans during a wide-ranging hearing on the department’s fiscal 2022 discretionary budget. The former congressman and California attorney general also assured GOP lawmakers that Medicare for All is not on the agenda.
...The House Progressive Caucus has called for the potential $456 billion in savings to be used to add benefits to Medicare, although the caucus also supports making permanent the ACA’s enhanced tax credits. The White House also made clear that it wants the ACA tax credits to remain.
Overall, enrollment during the 2021 COVID SEP is up 3.5x vs. the same time period in 2019, which makes sense when you consider a) the COVID pandemic which has caused millions to lose their income and/or employer-based healthcare coverage; b) the "fully open" status of the COVID SEP; and c) the expanded subsidies put in place under the American Rescue Plan.
SEP enrollment is also up 2.4x over the same time period in 2020; COVID was in full force for most of that period last year, but HC.gov refused to launch a "wide open" SEP as most of the state-based exchanges did, nor were there any expanded subsidies in place, so 2019 is still the more appropriate year to compare against. (Besides, 2020 was a leap year, which tacked an extra day onto the total).
HHS Secretary Becerra Announces Nearly 940,000 Americans Have Signed Up for Health Coverage through HealthCare.gov During Special Enrollment Period
Since April 1, premiums have been reduced by over 40 percent for nearly 2 million current HealthCare.gov enrollees
Today, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra announced that nearly 940,000 Americans have signed up for health insurance through HealthCare.gov as a result of the Biden Administration’s Special Enrollment Period (SEP) for the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. The 2021 SEP, along with the additional financial assistance afforded by the American Rescue Plan (ARP), offers individuals and families an opportunity to take advantage of reduced premiums, increased savings, and quality, affordable health coverage through HealthCare.gov.
An average of three out of five eligible uninsured Americans can access $0 plans after advance payments of tax credits and an average of four out of five current HealthCare.gov consumers will be able to find a plan for $10 or less per month after advance payments of tax credits
Department also announces $50 Million Boost to Special Enrollment Period Outreach Campaign
Today, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra announced that additional savings and lower health care costs are available for consumers on HealthCare.gov. The American Rescue Plan (ARP) has increased tax credits available to consumers, helping to reduce premiums and giving consumers access to affordable health care coverage.
The Department also announced an additional $50 million in advertising to bolster the Special Enrollment Period outreach campaign. The campaign will run through August 15, 2021.
President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has selected Xavier Becerra, the Democratic attorney general of California, as his nominee for secretary of health and human services, tapping a former congressman who would be the first Latino to run the department as it battles the surging coronavirus pandemic.
Mr. Becerra became Mr. Biden’s clear choice only over the past few days, according to people familiar with the transition’s deliberations, and was a surprise. Mr. Becerra has carved out a profile on the issues of criminal justice and immigration, and he was long thought to be a candidate for attorney general.
But as attorney general in California, he has been at the forefront of legal efforts on health care, leading 20 states and the District of Columbia in a campaign to protect the Affordable Care Act from being dismantled by his Republican counterparts. He has also been vocal in the Democratic Party about fighting for women’s health.