The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is denying a report in the New York Times (Times) about new federal health care regulations, and is also denying that the news has implications for Idaho.
On April 5, IdahoReporter.com published a story that cited information from the Times about the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). The Times story was published on April 2.
A component of the Obamacare law calls for the federal government to create a new insurance marketplace specifically for small businesses to utilize. The intent of the plan was to provide small business owners and their employees a broad choice of health insurance plans from which they could choose, plans that would be available for purchase through the government-run insurance exchanges in the various states. The program was to begin in the first quarter of 2014.
But, according to the Times article of April 2, this component of the federal plan won’t be ready until first quarter of 2015, at the earliest. The article also noted that the administration cites “operational challenges” as the cause of the delay, and in the interim small business owners in most states will have only one approved insurance plan to purchase.
“The New York Times story was factually inaccurate,” Fabien Levy, press secretary for HHS, said via email and telephone to IdahoReporter.com.
“People are reading these news stories all over the country,” Levy told IdahoReporter.com via telephone, “so it is very important that people are receiving accurate information.” Levy said that, contrary to the Times story, the health insurance options for small business employers will not be delayed, saying that “coverage will begin on January of 2014 and open enrollment will begin in October of 2013.”
Levy added that Idaho has applied for and has been “conditionally approved” to create a state-based insurance exchange, and explained that the leadership of the Idaho exchange will determine how many insurance plans are available to small business employers.
IdahoReporter.com asked Levy if HHS had contacted the Times and made the publication aware of its belief that the paper published inaccuracies, to which Levy replied, “I don’t know, I think my boss made that call.” Asked when HHS had contacted the Times, Levy said, “I presume the day after (the day after the story published), but I’m not sure.”
But the HHS spokesman said HHS contacting the Times is separate from him contacting IdahoReporter.com about the April 5 story posted on IdahoReporter.com.
“I don't think our contact with the New York Times is relevant, anyway. We want to make sure that you (IdahoReporter.com) have factual information. The key point for Idaho is that the Idaho exchange will decide whether or not small business employers have more than one plan (insurance plan) to choose from,” Levy said.
IdahoReporter.com also contacted Robert Pear, the Times reporter who authored the original news story of April 2. Pear would not confirm or deny that HHS had contacted him about the story, yet he nonetheless stood by the story’s accuracy, and cited notices published in the U.S. Federal Register on March 11, 2013, as substantiation for his story.
Pear also noted that the original plan from HHS was to ensure that individual employees of small businesses would have access to multiple insurance plans, but now HHS was only seeking to ensure that employers would have multiple plans from which to choose. Once an employer chooses a particular insurance plan, all employees within that company would presumably have to utilize that single plan.