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Washington Watch - June 12, 2013

California Releases State Exchange Rates

California, home to the largest state-operated individual health care exchange, recently announced premium rates for 2014. Thirteen insurers will offer a wide range of plans in four categories: platinum, gold, silver, and bronze, for the anticipated 5.3 million Californians who will enroll in the exchange market.

However, the issue of cost remains for the self-employed. While the plans offered in the exchange are comprehensive and provide significant protections for the consumer, they will be more expensive. One cost containing measure included in the Affordable Care Act set a maximum limit on out-of-pocket expenditures at $6,350 for an individual and $12,700 for a family for most plans. (Read more on how the NASE has proposed additional market reforms to address the issue of cost and accessibility.)

Officials running the state's exchange divided California into 19 regions for rate-setting purposes. Aside from where a person lives, insurers are limited in their ability to charge consumers different prices for health care. On average, there will be five plans to choose from in each region of the state. Rural areas will have two or three.

The NASE recommends that California members take time to thoroughly review the information available on the Covered California website and begin making preliminary decisions regarding your health insurance options for 2014.

In 2014, every American will be required to have a qualified health insurance plan either in the individual market or an employee-sponsored plan, and failure to do so will result in a penalty. In 2014, the penalty will be 1 percent of income or $95, whichever is greater.

Immigration Bill Heads to the Senate Floor for Debate and Vote

The comprehensive plan for overhaul of the country’s immigration system by the Senate “Gang of Eight” recently landed on the floor of the United States Senate for debate and anticipated final passage before the 4th of July recess. In May, the bill received bi-partisan support from the Senate Judiciary Committee, after a lengthy mark-up period that saw a wide range of amendments offered. Over the next few weeks, the Senate chamber will be tied up with debate and additional amendments, some that have the potential to doom the bill. However, the bill has so far been able to stay clean of controversial proposals that would stymie any real chance of immigration reform in 2013.

One major issue that the Senate bill does not address is how the Affordable Care Act can be interpreted in the case of an individual pursuing legal status. Because the length of time for a person to obtain a legal status can be in excess of a decade, there is a question of what, if any, health insurance requirements those individuals would need to meet. Both supporters and opponents of immigration reform argue that this issue must be addressed and it could be extremely costly.

Stay tuned!

The Debate on the Availability of E-Verify

The importance of a promptly available E-Verify system has not been lost on Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). Sen. Grassley proposed an amendment to the bill that mandates E-Verify be available in 18 months. The amendment was struck down, but the rationale is not dead.

The topic of availability of an E-Verify system will be a catalyst in the debate for immigration reform, although other arguments in the immigration debate may end up pushing the E-Verify discussion to the back burner. However, this does not diminish the importance of a simple system that the self-employed can trust. Every day that self-employed Americans must wait for such a system is one too many.

An NASE study indicated that 58.8 percent of respondents believe an employer should have to verify all new hires. Mike Aitken, Human Resource Management’s Vice President for Government Affairs told Politico that E-Verify, “is the linchpin to an effective system.”

The NASE urges Congress not to lose sight of the importance of an E-Verify system to the self-employed. The dilemma Congress faces is the time it would take for a working database of this magnitude to be accessible. The ideal solution for the self-employed would be a manageable E-Verify system that protects as well as provides a smooth transition for employing new immigrants.

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