Payer Roundup—GOP lawmaker floats bill to delay health insurance tax; Senate passes CHRONIC Care Act

If the health insurance tax returns as scheduled in 2018, a recent analysis predicted that it will increase premiums by an average of 2.6%.

A Republican senator has introduced a bill that would delay the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance tax for another year.

The bill, called the Healthcare Tax Relief Act, was introduced by Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner and co-sponsored by 10 other GOP senators. The tax in question was in effect from 2014 to 2016, but Congress instituted a one-year moratorium on it for 2017. If it returns in 2018, as scheduled, a recent analysis predicted that it will increase premiums by an average of 2.6%.

“We need to look at every avenue we can to provide relief to the American people from the high costs created by the Affordable Care Act,” Gardner said. “My legislation delays a tax that once implemented would lead to even higher costs of care for Coloradans.” Release

Senate passes CHRONIC Care Act

While the dust settled from the collapse of the GOP’s latest ACA repeal-and-replace effort, the Senate unanimously passed a far less contentious healthcare bill.

The bill, called the Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic Care Act of 2017, aims to improve care for Medicare beneficiaries by extending the Independence at Home program and tweaking some rules for accountable care organizations and the use of telehealth in ACOs and Medicare Advantage.

Specifically for Medicare Advantage, the bill would permanently extend special needs plans, allow MA plans in every state to tailor plan design to specific groups and expand the use of supplemental benefits.

“This legislation will improve disease management, lower Medicare costs and streamline care coordination services—all without adding to the deficit,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch. Release

Aetna faces new suit tied to HIV privacy breach

A patient from California has filed a proposed class-action lawsuit against Aetna that alleged the insurer “recklessly failed to take adequate precautions” to safeguard his confidential medical information.

The breach in question occurred when Aetna sent 12,000 mailings that contained information about filing HIV prescriptions—some of which could be seen through a clear window in the envelope without having to open it. The incident has already sparked another proposed class-action suit on behalf of customers who say their privacy was breached.

For its part, Aetna notified members of the issue after discovering it, issued a public apology, and has said it’s undertaking a review of its processes to ensure something similar doesn’t happen again. Complaint (PDF)