Feds Ask Connecticut To Reconsider Rate Hike Approval, Other Health Law Implementation NewsThe Hartford Courant reports that a high-ranking health official in the Obama administration has asked Connecticut insurance regulators to reconsider allowing Blue Cross Blue Shield in Connecticut to raise health insurance rates by as much as 47 percent. "The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' director of Consumer Information, Jay Angoff, sent a letter Monday to Connecticut Insurance Commissioner Thomas Sullivan. 'The consumers of Connecticut expect and deserve transparency and a fact-based rationale as to why their rates are increasing,' Angoff said in the letter. 'The Affordable Care Act cannot be used to justify this huge rate hike and, in fact, includes provisions to empower states to shed light on and guard against this type of excessive insurer behavior.'" The Department of Health and Human Services in August gave Connecticut a $1 million grant to improve oversight of rate increases. The move to increase rates therefore surprised Angoff, he wrote (Sturdevant, 10/18).
Forbes: Big changes are coming to so-called medical flexible spending accounts. "Mid-October marks the start of fall 'open enrollment' - a time when most of the 33 million workers with medical flexible spending accounts will be deciding how much pre-tax salary to divert into these accounts during 2011. This is also the time when those with money left in their 2010 FSAs start thinking about how to use the cash up, lest they forfeit it under the annual 'use it or lose it' rule. If you've got an FSA, before you make any moves, read what follows. The FSA rules are changing on Jan. 1, 2011, and again on Jan. 1, 2013, in ways that could influence what you do now." The biggest change is that consumers can no longer use FSA dollars to buy over-the-counter drugs without a prescription from a doctor, except for insulin (Ebeling, 10/15).
CQ HealthBeat: In the meantime, Medicare leaders are laying out the focus of a new office -- the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation -- that will distribute $10 billion during the next decade in grants to update the nation's health system. "The agency is looking for proposals that will improve health care delivery, improve public health and reduce medical costs. The center is now ramping up and is expected to be fully operational after the first of the year" (Adams, 10/18).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.