Recent U.S. Laws on Healthcare to Help Protect Consumers

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Do you wonder about your protections as a consumer in regards to U.S. healthcare? By keeping up with recently passed U.S. laws and proposed laws in the healthcare field, you can learn more about how to protect your healthcare needs and what still needs improvement.

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Save American Workers Act of 2015

One proposed law that currently sits before Congress is the Save American Workers Act of 2015. H.R. 30 was created as a response to many U.S. businesses slashing employee hours to avoid having to provide healthcare benefits. If this bill is passed, it will require the employer to pay minimum essential healthcare coverage to an employee working an average of 40 hours a week.

This bill will amend The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which currently calls for providing such coverage to employees working an average of 30 hours a week. The move to pass this bill is welcomed by those Americans who want to restore the 40-hour work week. Implementing the Save American Workers Act of 2015 would increase income for families across the nation by bumping up hours to full time and giving more families access to health benefits. In turn, this move helps to strengthen the U.S. economy. The bill is currently sitting in the Committee on Finance.

 

Affordable Care Act – Open Enrollment

Under the Affordable Care Act, which includes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, an American can apply for open enrollment for the healthcare marketplace if you do so by the end of the scheduled open enrollment period. This means that you can apply for a major medical plan that provides minimum essential coverage to you as an individual or your family.

In addition, within an open enrollment period, you can change plans or apply for cost assistance if you do not qualify for a major medical plan. The marketplace coverage is a separate enrollment period from Medicaid and Medicare. To ensure you have minimum essential healthcare coverage, it is important you apply during the open period online at HealthCare.gov by the appointed deadline. Coverage can start as early as a few weeks after you apply, in many instances.

 

Hospital Improvement for Payment Act of 2014

In November of 2014, a bipartisan bill was passed in draft form by the House Ways and Means Committee. The Hospital Improvement for Payment (HIP) Act is designed to address many well-known hospital issues, including payments, Medicare’s two-midnight policy and outpatient observation stays.

If the HIP Act passes, there will be a merge between the two Medicare systems of inpatient and outpatient. The bill’s goal is to have one hospital prospective system in place by 2020 to streamline the process. In addition, there would be a new rate created for short hospital stays and abolishment of the payment reduction concerning two-midnight payment.

The two-midnight policy has been a messy issue ever since it was created by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) earlier in 2014. While the policy was created to provide clarification as to what “short stays” are, it only convoluted what coverage Medicare beneficiaries receive on outpatient observation stays and other types of stays. The definition of what is a “short stay” in general became an issue. The Hospital Improvement for Payment Act of 2014 would redefine short inpatient stays, extend the present moratorium on Recovery Audit Contractor (RAC) audits for short stays (inpatient) and much more.

 

Cromnibus Spending Bill Passes

In late 2014, the House and the Senate passed H.R. 83, commonly known as the Cromnibus or CR-omnibus. Its name, used by political insiders, comes from being the combined continuing resolution (CR) and omnibus appropriations bill. The large $1.1 trillion bill applies to 2015 federal funding through to the end of September of 2015, with the exception of the Department of Homeland Security, whose funding is only until February 27, 2015.

The significance of the Cromnibus is that it limits the President’s executive actions to allow specific groups of undocumented immigrants to stay in the U.S. and receive healthcare benefits that could include Medicare.

The law provides specific guidelines about spending, which includes putting $5.4 billion towards Ebola response and preparedness and increasing funds for the National Institutes of Health by $150 million to $30.1 billion. Hopefully, the control on spending in some areas and financial increases in other areas will provide for uniform, quality healthcare services for Americans.

 

Data Breach Laws for Health Care Facilities

Currently, there are state-wide laws for how to handle data breaches but not a blanket federal law. This means that each state has its legislation regarding the obligations that companies, such as healthcare organizations, must abide by when their personal details are exposed to online hackers. A security breach would be handled the same way by healthcare organizations, such as hospitals and clinics, across the U.S. if such a federal law is passed.

Whether to have a federal data security law or not is currently a hot debate on Capitol Hill. Data breach legislation was the topic of discussion for the Energy & Commerce Committee on January 27, 2015. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is pushing for a federal law to pass.

Often with a critical eye on the U.S. healthcare industry, Americans are wondering why their hospital bills are so high. They also wonder how they can get adequate healthcare coverage for their needs and whether their data on healthcare websites is truly private. Whether the legislation in 2015 and beyond will be able to satisfy the many critics of the U.S. healthcare system is still to be seen.

However, one thing that is certain is that the Affordable Care Act is a piece of legislation that is not running smoothly. Will the government listen to the plights of American consumers who are stuck with high health bills? That will be seen by what legislation passes in the coming year.

Filed under: Technology, US Healthcare, Resources, Obamacare, Healthcare in Politics, Affordable Care Act

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One response to “Recent U.S. Laws on Healthcare to Help Protect Consumers”

  1. Kathy says:

    Medical bills are mailed out. You get your payable amount. BUT, charges are never itemized and given. It should be a law. These hidden, blown up bills would not go unnoticed.