New Birth Control Mandate Rules Open Door to Corporate Morality Rights

Today the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) issued two new final rules related to the the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate.

The ACA requires that birth control be 100% covered as a preventive service under every employer-offered health insurance plan. However, a recent Supreme Court case (Burwell v. Hobby Lobby) allowed closely-held companies (ex. family-run businesses) and non-profits to opt out of that mandate if they had religious objections to contraception. The first of the two new regulations simply promulgates that high court decision.

Opening the Floodgates

The second rule is rather interesting because it potentially opens the court door to an argument that publicly-traded, large corporations have moral beliefs. In this second rule, the DHHS allows entities to object and opt out of the mandate on the “basis of moral conviction which it not based in any particular religious belief. ” (DHHS news release 10-6-17)

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The FMLA and “Friends” – What Rachel Can Teach Us About Leave Transitions

You can learn a lot about human resources from binge-watching shows on Netflix (especially if you do it at work, since it’ll get you some one-on-one time with your HR department!). The Office is full of employment law violations, Scrubs and Grey’s Anatomy discuss modern problems in health insurance, and 30 Rock showcases the challenges of team leadership.

During a recent marathon of the late 90’s show Friends, I came across an episode that teaches us about the managerial pitfalls of parental leave benefits.

“Friends” screenshot from Netflix, 2017

In the real world, paid parental leave is one of the fastest-rising employee benefits. Organizations are fighting harder than ever to recruit and retain good employees who are growing families. For the rest of the working world, at least in the U.S., the Family and Medical Leave Act remains a strong, but complicated policy mandating a form of unpaid parental leave (see my crash course video on the FMLA).

While the law may appear simple, management must jump through many hoops in order to provide a fair and effective process (if they want to avoid litigation and prevent huge morale losses, that is). Policies must be established and relationships must be strengthened, in order to ensure a peaceful transition and continued productivity when the employee on leave returns to work. Friends teaches us the consequences when the process isn’t done correctly.

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A Concern about the Proposed American Health Care Act (Editorial)

Earlier this week in a rally in Nashville, President Trump reiterated a plea he has made throughout his push for the new health care law: “Insurers are fleeing, and nobody will have insurance.” I am concerned that this stance is dangerously overstated as a good reason to dismantle our current health insurance system.

The “fleeing” refers only to some insurance companies no longer offering specialized insurance plans on the state-run Exchanges (the ones that come with subsidies for lower-income folks). If a person earns too much to receive a tax subsidy, which is the majority of Americans, he or she can go directly to an insurance carrier and buy a plan during open enrollment. Outside of the Exchanges, there are many plan and carrier options everywhere.

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What’s Happening to the Affordable Care Act?

Confusion. Frustration. Fear. We’re all feeling something towards the uncertainty surrounding health insurance right now. Let me try to relieve some of it by explaining what has happened and how we should respond.


WHAT WE KNOW

With the Affordable Care Act currently in a state of flux, we must ground ourselves with facts. Here’s what we know for sure right now:

  1. The ACA is a law passed by Congress. Only Congress has the power to change a law.
  1. There were many regulations promulgated by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) over the past five years to support portions of the ACA law (ex. specifying the Essential Health Benefits that all plans must cover). These rules can change, but only through a fairly long and formal rulemaking process.
  1. A small army of legal organizations are ready to file lawsuits to stop any action by the President, Congress, or any other official that oversteps their legal authority. Government officials and health insurers cannot ignore current, active law.
  1. President Trump issued an executive order last weekend (Jan 21st) ordering all federal agencies to “take all actions consistent with law to minimize the unwarranted economic and regulatory burdens of the [Affordable Care] Act.” While there is little actual functional value to the executive order (see #1 and #2 above), it reinforces the President’s stance against the ACA and asks Executive Branch employees to work towards limited the law’s effect. It doesn’t actually do anything on its own. At most, the IRS director could use it as reason to not levy the tax penalty on uninsured individuals.

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New Crash Course Training Video: Health Insurance Part 2 – Insurance Plans

I just uploaded to YouTube the concluding part of my Crash Course training series on Health Insurance. This video, Part 2, focuses on the components of a health insurance plan and teaches you to better understand what’s inside your insurance policy.

Crash Course Training Video #2: Health Insurance – Part I

The second video in my crash course training series is the first part of an overview on health insurance in the United States.

Part I of this series discusses how the general health insurance system works and touches on some big-picture concepts. Part II (coming soon) will focus on health insurance plans and how to understand benefits and coverage.