Election Brings Change to Congress, But Executive Branch Will Continue To Dominate Health Policy Action

Election Brings Change to Congress, But Executive Branch Will Continue To Dominate Health Policy Action

On November 6, 2018, American voters turned out in record numbers for the mid-term elections, and the result will be a divided government in Washington, DC for at least the next two years.  For health care purposes, this means that Congress will not be able to revisit another effort to repeal and replace the ACA, but instead will focus on more non-controversial topics like prescription drug costs, mental health care, and the opioid crisis.  It also means that most federal health policy action during the next two years will continue to come from the executive branch.

Throughout the Trump Administration, the executive branch has been the primary source of policy activity affecting employer-sponsored health plans, and this trend shows no signs of abating. Earlier this fall, the Administration announced an aggressive planned regulatory agenda for the remainder of 2018 and 2019.  The federal Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and Treasury, have already released proposals targeted at lowering prescription drug costs and expanding business access to new types of health reimbursement arrangements. Guidance on health coverage innovation waivers for the states was published, as were final regulations on coverage of contraceptives. Other topics on their regulatory priority list for the year ahead include a review of the HIPAA/HITECH privacy rules, changes to preserve the integrity of health insurance exchanges, Medicare and Medicare Advantage plan issues, guidance on grandmothered and grandfathered plans, employer mandate and employer reporting adjustments, wellness programs, and the excise tax on high-cost employer health plans.

Of all of these proposals that have been released or are in the works, only the regulations on contraceptive coverage are final.  Those measures are merely a continuation of the interim final rules that were released last year to provide employers with strong religious or moral objections to offering such coverage with a path to excluding it from their health benefit plan offerings, and they do not include new substantive provisions.

As for the other federal health policy changes under consideration, as they are honed and executed, Kistler Tiffany Benefits will make sure that you know right away about any new requirements or opportunities that could impact your plan. It is our goal to keep our clients fully engaged and informed about any new market, legislative or regulatory changes that may be ahead.  Keeping track of current requirements, anticipating future changes, and making sure that you are informed and confident about your benefit choices are all part of our job as your benefits partner.