Yesterday the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that states would now be eligible for a new round of grants to help them regulate health insurance to stop excessive premium hikes. Almost $200 million is set aside for the effort that has already had $46 million given to states to help them start planning for this requirement under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
South Carolina took advantage of the first round of funding under the ACA receiving $1 million for the S.C. Department of Insurance to begin the process of improving its ability to review health insurance premiums. In addition, the Department has also received $441,000 to support a Consumer Assistance Program and another $1 million to plan for a health insurance exchange. All three of these ACA-required programs are much needed.
So will South Carolina submit another grant to HHS for some of this new $200 million for a premium rate review—an effort to make sure consumers and businesses are not being taken advantage of by the insurance industry?
Well, that’s really not the first question that needs an answer.
The immediate question is—will Governor Haley’s administration keep the first three Federal grants? With all the tough political talk about how South Carolina doesn’t want Federal money especially for the new health care law, the decision might be to just tell the Feds to “keep its stinkin’ money.
But even if the critics miraculously win a 2013 Supreme Court verdict that the ACA’s individual mandate is Unconstitutional, the rest of the law with all its provisions would go on.
And even if it didn’t, what’s wrong with the state moving forward with health insurance premium rate review to protect consumers. Or setting up an insurance exchange that allows individuals and small businesses to pool together to save money on health insurance. Or improving a program to really help consumers understand health insurance options in order to make well-informed decisions? All are still great ideas even if a state does them on its own.
The inside scoop is that the Haley administration will keep the Federal grant monies to pursue all three programs and still trash the ACA calling for its repeal. Who doesn’t like having your cake and eating it too?