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Affordable Care Act Implementation Update

An update on the benefits kicking in from the Affordable Care Act.

With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, President Obama and his team have turned to the next big task: implementing the new law, making reform a reality and ensuring consumers have control of their health care, not big insurance companies. We’ll be doing this through providing better choices for consumers, lowering costs for everyone, and holding insurance companies accountable.   Earlier this week, Secretary Sebelius sent a letter to Congressional leaders about our efforts to implement the new law, but we want to ensure you know about the work we’re doing, so in addition to our usual efforts to answer your questions and pass on important information, we will be providing regular updates here on the White House blog.

Some of the highlights of our work include:

Coverage for Young Adults
This week we released new regulations that will allow young adults who don’t get insurance at work to stay on their parents’ health insurance plan until they turn 26. This policy goes into effect in September, but our Administration has called on leading insurance companies to implement the new law and begin covering young adults now. We’re pleased that more than 65 of the nation’s leading insurance companies have agreed to do just that, along with a host of large employers across the nation.  Learn more about this policy and how you and your family can get covered here.

Supporting Early Retirees
Earlier this month, the Department of Health and Human Services issued rules for the new early retiree reinsurance program. This program offers $5 billion to employers so they can more easily give benefits to their retired workers who are not eligible for Medicare health benefits. High health care costs have made it increasingly difficult for employers to offer benefits to their retirees and Americans who retire early and aren’t eligible for Medicare often pay high prices for coverage or simply go uninsured. Now, this program will make it easier for employers to honor their commitments to the workers that helped their businesses succeed. We’re especially pleased that this program will get started early. The law calls for this program to be established by June 21, but we have worked to ensure the benefits of this program kick in on June 1.  You can learn more about the program here.

Fighting Fraud
The Affordable Care Act includes significant new tools that will help fight fraud and protect taxpayer dollars. On Thursday, Secretary Sebelius and Attorney General Holder discussed our Administration’s work to fight fraud using the tools provided by the Affordable Care Act. Sebelius and Holder also released  the annual Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control Program (HCFAC) Report, which found that in fiscal year 2009, our work to crack down on fraud brought $2.51 billion to the Medicare Trust Fund, a $569 million, or 29 percent, increase over FY 2008. You can watch the announcement and learn more here.

Lowering Premiums
The President’s team has also continued to fight high health insurance premium increases. Months ago, the Administration spoke out when Anthem BlueCross, a WellPoint company proposed raising rates by as much as 39 percent. Now, after an investigation found that the company’s justification for those increases was based on “miscalculations,” HHS Secretary Sebelius has called on states to examine other WellPoint rate increases to see if they were also based on flawed data. Several states are investigating.

We’re also working closely with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) to implement new rules that require insurance companies to be more efficient and spend more of your premium dollars on medical care, not overhead, CEO salaries and other expenses. We’ve asked the NAIC to complete its work on the “medical loss ratio” policy by June 1, rather than the December deadline included in the law and we’ll continue to monitor insurance companies and speak out if they try to force unjustified rate increases on their customers.

Be sure to check the blog regularly for more information about how the Affordable Care Act is being implemented and strengthening the health care system for all Americans.

Stephanie Cutter is Assistant to the President for Special Projects