cloudy-day Created with Sketch.
Broken Clouds
H 86° L 68°
  • cloudy-day Created with Sketch.
    Current Conditions
    Mostly Cloudy. H 86° L 68°
  • cloudy-day Created with Sketch.
    Mostly Cloudy. H 86° L 68°
  • partly-cloudy-tstorms-day Created with Sketch.
    Sct Thunderstorms. H 87° L 62°

The latest top stories

00:00 | 00:00


The latest traffic report

00:00 | 00:00


The latest forecast

00:00 | 00:00

Some states balk at enforcing health law’s insurance protections

Florida regulators won’t penalize insurance companies that violate new health law consumer protections that take effect in January but will report them to the federal government, according to an agreement between the state and federal officials.

Citing lack of money and legal authority, Pennsylvania’s top insurance regulator hasn’t decided whether his agency can enforce the provisions, which include some of the most popular elements of the 2010 federal health law, such as requiring insurers to provide coverage to all applicants regardless of their health status, prohibiting insurers from charging more based on gender or health, and greatly limiting what insurers can charge for premiums based on age.

At least three others— Missouri, Oklahoma and Wyoming — have informed the Obama administration that they can’t or won’t enforce the law. Some officials say they have not received the authority they need to do so from their state legislatures.

While federal officials say they will step in if necessary, policy experts note they have little experience enforcing health insurance laws and few resources in states to do it.

“HHS has no real record of enforcing health insurance rules in the states,” said Jay Angoff, who was in charge of developing the new online insurance marketplaces for HHS and is now a partner at the Washington, D.C., law firm Mehri & Skalet.

To be sure, many states have agreed to oversee the changes – including the 16 states, plus the District of Columbia, that won conditional approval to set up their own insurance exchanges. Even some states that defaulted to a federally run exchange, such as Texas, Mississippi, South Dakota and Alaska, have agreed to enforce the new provisions.

“We don’t pick and choose which laws to enforce or not enforce,” said Aaron Sisk of the Mississippi Insurance Department.

The Texas Insurance Department issued a directive today saying it would require health insurers and HMOs to “comply with the terms of the policies they have issued, regardless of whether a particular term is based on a federal or state law.”

The enforcement issue needs to be settled now because health plans are beginning this month to submit insurance products to state regulators that they hope to sell in the new online marketplaces beginning this fall. If states balk at reviewing the plans for compliance with Obamacare rules, insurers could face oversight from both state and federal regulators. It’s unclear what impact that would have on consumers seeking help.

“We will see a lot of variability,” in how the law is enforced, said Alan Weil, executive director of the National Academy of State Health Policy. But Weil noted that’s no different than today with some states approving insurance rates before policies are sold and many that do not.

Commonwealth Fund report last month found just 11 states and the District of Columbia had begun to change state laws to give their insurance regulators authority to enforce the law.

Wyoming’s Deputy Insurance Commissioner Stephanie Bryant McGee said her agency does not currently have that authority. But she said her staff has been successful on getting voluntary compliance by companies, and “I assume we will continue to similarly communicate with insurers in the future.”

She said she has been notified the federal government will also step in if need be.

Montana and Delaware have also agreed to evaluate plans and respond to consumer complaints, but leave any enforcement penalties to the federal government.

Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Michael Consedine said his reviewers could add the federal provisions to their annual audits of insurance plans, but he said it’s unclear if they have the legal authority to penalize violators. He said lack of funding may also impede enforcement efforts. “We may need help with having the dollars to do this,” he said.

Gary Cohen, director of the federal Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, said the administration has been in talks with states for months to persuade them to enforce the new rules. Cohen said states are in a better position to do it because they already enforce state health insurance laws.

Read More

There are no comments yet. Be the first to post your thoughts. or Register.

The Latest News Headlines

  • A Cobb County woman accused of sitting on her 2-year-old son’s head was recently indicted. The grand jury charged Susan Elizabeth Kelley of Kennesaw with first-degree child cruelty March 23. Her attorney Maddox Kilgore said Tuesday he would enter a plea of not guilty whenever Kelley has an arraignment hearing. >> Read more trending news  Kilgore represented Justin Ross Harris, a Cobb County man who was sentenced to life in prison for killing his 22-month-old son Cooper by leaving him to die in a hot car. Kilgore said that Kelley’s boy has fully recovered from the May 11 incident. According to an arrest warrant, Kelley placed a towel on a wooden dining chair, put her son’s head on the towel and then sat on him with all her body weight for about an hour. She told police she sat on her son to “gain ‘submission’ from the child,” the warrant said. The boy became unresponsive and was rushed to Egleston Hospital in Atlanta. At the time, Kelley was arrested and then released on a $55,220 bond.
  • Twelve people were killed and three others were injured Wednesday when a pickup collided head-on with a van carrying 14 senior members of a New Braunfels, Texas, church on a two-lane highway north of Uvalde, authorities said. >> Read more trending news  The crash happened 75 miles west of San Antonio, said Sgt. Conrad Hein of the Texas Department of Public Safety. It was unclear if the lone occupant of the pickup was among the dead or how many of the dead were among the 14 aboard the church van, Hein said. Information was unavailable on the extent of injuries for the other three people, who were taken to a hospital. The cause of the crash hasn’t been determined, Hein said. The collision happened at a major curve in the highway, according to the Uvalde Leader-News. That newspaper also reported that a woman said she called law enforcement about reckless driving involving one of the vehicles, but authorities didn’t arrive before the crash. The National Transportation Safety Board said it is investigating. The van was carrying members of First Baptist New Braunfels who were returning from the Alto Frio Baptist Camp and Conference Center in Leakey, about 9 miles north of the crash site. They had just finished a three-day retreat that included singing and Bible study. As the church learned of the crash Wednesday afternoon, it canceled its activities that evening and said the sanctuary would be open for prayer and support. A statement on the church’s Facebook page said it hadn’t received any official details from authorities, but the church was “ministering to family members to help them deal with this tragedy.” Counselors will be at the church Thursday to offer support, according to the Facebook post. “If you’re a Christian, you can pray for those who lost their loved ones and for the church family,” the Facebook post said. In a statement, Gov. Greg Abbott said he and his wife, Cecilia, extend their “deepest condolences to the victims and the families of those involved in today’s tragic event.” He said they are “saddened by the loss of life and our hearts go out to all those affected.”
  • For the first time in history, billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s SpaceX is poised to launch a recycled rocket back into Earth’s orbit — a milestone that could drastically cut the cost of traveling into space and pave the way for a new era in space travel. >> Read more trending news Musk’s private space company is scheduled to relaunch a Falcon 9 rocket — which successfully propelled the Dragon cargo ship into space in 2016 — from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center on Thursday, March 30. The two-and-a-half-hour launch window opens at 6:27 p.m. ET tonight and runs through 8:57 p.m. ET. >> Related: SpaceX capsule returns space station science to Earth, lands in Pacific Ocean  According to SpaceX, a “rapidly reusable space launch vehicle” could reduce the cost of traveling to space by a hundredfold in the future. The part of the rocket that is being recycled is its main body, which separates from the top part of the rocket and then barrels back to Earth, NBC News reported. So far, after 13 attempts, SpaceX has successfully returned eight rockets back to Earth. But the Falcon 9 rocket launch will be the company’s first time reusing the same booster. Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, a SpaceX rival, was the first to launch and land the same rocket twice with its New Shepard rocket in 2016.
  • Uber is teaming up with the University of Central Florida to help students get home safely after a night out on the town.  The ride share app and university are creating a “Safe Rides Zone,” which includes the entire UCF campus, and will offer cheaper fares for students. >> Read more trending news The program will give students half off an Uber ride up to $10 and then $5 off any ride that costs more than $10. Student Victoria Hehlile was glad to know the program was in place for students. “All college kids go out, so you want to get home safely,” she said. Students can use the program through the Uber app on their smartphone, thanks to a special code. The “Safe Rides” program will run through June 30 on Friday and Saturday nights. >> Got a question about the news? See our explainers here Student Josh Gonzalez was glad to see a program in place that will help get him and his classmates home safely. “We all like to party,” he said. “It’s going the extra mile to ensure that everybody has a safe, good time.”
  • A Texas school district has reversed its decision to deny a grieving family a yearbook memorial page for their daughter, who killed herself last week. Hannah Rose Hollis, a 17-year-old senior at Pearland High School, had recently celebrated her acceptance into Texas A&M University, where she would follow in her older sisters’ footsteps in the fall. The celebration turned to heartbreak for her family and friends on March 19, when Hollis committed suicide. “If she would’ve just known how much we loved her, she would’ve known it was a mistake,” Hannah’s sister, Holleigh Hollis, told KPRC 2 News in Houston.  >> Read more trending stories Hannah Hollis’ death prompted students, friends and family to request a memorial page for her in Pearland High’s yearbook. The request was denied, students said. The Hollis family told the news station the denial was based on the way Hannah Hollis died.  “This administration tells us that they won’t make this page because they think that if children see it, then it will urge them to do the same thing,” Holleigh Hollis said. “I completely disagree with that.” The denial prompted a student to create a Change.org petition, urging school administrators to change their minds. “I did not personally know Hannah, but as someone who struggled with demons of their own, I am horrified that we cannot honor one of our own because of how this beautiful soul passed,” creator Ericka Chang-Kalandros wrote in the petition.  Chang-Kalandros wrote that while Hollis’ death was a tragedy, her life was a blessing. The yearbook staff sought to “honor her beautiful life rather than romanticize her death.” “The stigmas surrounding mental illness have never been more prevalent in our school than right now,” Chang-Kalandros wrote. “Because of these stigmas, we cannot honor our fellow classmate, athlete, and, most of all, friend. Not only will this page allow her friends and family to see that we are united as a student body behind them through these difficult times, it will also bring awareness to those who suffer in silence as Hannah did.” More than 6,000 people signed the petition. Many of them gave written reasons for signing. “I’m signing, because no one deserves to go through what she went through alone,” Hannah Armstrong, of Pearland, wrote. “The school needs to show that they will help and support anyone who needs it.” “I’m signing, because, no matter the circumstances, this is a life gone too early,” wrote Diane Perthuis, of Houston. “She died of something that affects too many of our youth.” “Mental illness is a disease like any other, and millions suffer in silence because of the stigma it brings,” wrote Sharon Shotwell, of Pearland. “She should be in the yearbook and honored like anyone else.” Read all of the reasons people signed the petition here.  The school decided, in the aftermath of the petition and after meeting with Hollis’ family, to allow the memorial page. A Pearland ISD school board member, Charles Gooden Jr., wrote on his Facebook page that the district’s plan all along was to determine the wishes of the Hollis family before moving forward with any memorial. “Students were not told ‘no’ to their request to remember Hannah in the yearbook. They were asked to wait to determine the wishes of the family,” Gooden wrote. “Having dealt with the loss of my brother when he was 17, I see that as a totally reasonable request. We are just dealing with a misunderstanding. “We have now learned that the Hollis family has expressed support for a memorial page in the yearbook,” he wrote. School administrators also released a statement on Wednesday, addressing the issue. “From the beginning, Pearland High School's and Pearland ISD's intention was and has been to allow the Hollis family time to grieve. We have now had an opportunity to visit with the family to discuss how to best honor Hannah. PHS will have a remembrance page in the yearbook for any Oiler they have lost, and this will include Hannah. We will continue to provide support for all students, and have Hannah's friends and family in our thoughts and prayers.” Hollis’ obituary describes her as “one of the brightest, most talented and lovely young women anyone could have ever known.” Her family wrote that she fell in love with television cooking shows at the age of 3 and, as soon as she could read, “always had her nose in a cookbook.” Her gifts went far beyond the kitchen, her family wrote, and when she was older, she worked as a summer camp counselor, caring for the youngest campers.  “Hannah was generous with both her time and her heart, always putting others’ feelings before hers,” the obituary read.  She was a gifted student and member of the school’s varsity golf team who also worked as a lifeguard. Having earned full acceptance to Texas A&M, she planned to become an anesthesiologist, according to her obituary.  “Truly extraordinary, blessed with so many gifts, Hannah was the most amazing young woman and to know her was to know a truly beautiful soul,” the obituary read. “She will be loved and missed forever.”

The Latest News Videos