March 3 – March 9, 2015

Supreme Court Hears Legal Challenge to Tax Credits in the Federally Facilitated Marketplace: On March 4, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in King v. Burwell, a case that will decide whether enrollees in states with federally facilitated marketplaces (FFM) are allowed to receive premium tax credits under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Current enrollees will continue to receive financial help as the judicial process continues, with a decision not expected until late June.

Update on Marketplace Enrollment: On March 10, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that nearly 11.7 million people were enrolled in marketplace coverage nationwide as of February 22. The full report also breaks down enrollment numbers by state. 

New Projections Estimate ACA Will Cost 11 Percent Less: On March 9, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) published updated baseline budget projections, including new estimates of the health coverage expansion under the ACA. Due to lower-than-expected premiums and new information on pre-2014 employer-sponsored and public coverage, over the next ten years, CBO projects that the ACA’s spending-related provisions will cost $142 billion less than CBO had estimated in January 2015 (an 11 percent decrease). CBO projects that 90 percent of nonelderly Americans will have insurance by 2017, including 24 million individuals who will have coverage because of the ACA.

Federal Report on FFM Management and Oversight Released: On March 4, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report evaluating how the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has implemented the FFM. The report covers the steps CMS has taken since the launch of HealthCare.gov to address problems and create a better online enrollment platform. Its recommendations include clarifying technical requirements prior to development, improving systems testing, and strengthening oversight.

New Outreach and Education Fact Sheets From CMS: To help consumers get ready to enroll in or renew marketplace coverage, CMS has created a new checklist of the information that they will need during the sign-up process. Another new fact sheet for consumers explains the marketplace plan-quality star-rating system that will be in place by the fall of 2016. These star ratings, on a scale of 1-5, will aim to help shoppers compare marketplace plans based on different quality measures, such as how easy it is to access care or get answers from the insurer’s customer service line.

State-Based Marketplace Updates:

  • Oregon: The governor of Oregon signed legislation that will dissolve Cover Oregon as an independent entity and transfer its functions to the Department of Consumer and Business Services. The state will continue to use the HealthCare.gov platform as an enrollment portal.
  • Vermont: The Vermont Health Connect online system that consumers will use to update their personal information is supposed to be operational by the end of May. In the meantime, the  marketplace is continuing to process enrollees’ reported changes in circumstances by hand.
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