NRF Applauds Health Care Rules

WASHINGTON — The National Retail Federation here said Tuesday it was pleased with the direction taken by the Obama administration in new rules issued for the implementation of health care reform.

“While we don’t love everything in this proposed rule, in comparison to where it could have gone and to where states have often gone in terms of comprehensiveness of coverage, they have been fairly restrained in their approach, and we are applauding them for their restraint,” Neil Trautwein, vice president of NRF and chairman of the Essential Health Benefits Coalition, told SN on Tuesday.

He said the administration has been conscious of the “trade-off between extensiveness of coverage and the cost.”

In addition, the administration “continues to track private-market drug coverage and has resisted the temptation to be more prescriptive as Medicare is, in terms of the required offerings per class,” he said.

Other rules related to other aspects of health care reform have yet to be promulgated, including one from the Treasury Department about how to calculate full-time vs. part-time employee status that retailers have concerns about.

“We’re looking for ways to make it easier to manage a complex retail workforce,” he said.

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The proposed rules include:

• Beginning in 2014, health insurance companies would be prohibited from discriminating against individuals because of a pre-existing or chronic condition. Under the rule, insurance companies would be allowed to vary premiums within limits, only based on age, tobacco use, family size, and geography.

• A proposed rule outlining policies and standards for coverage of essential health benefits, while giving states more flexibility to implement the Affordable Care Act. Essential health benefits are a core set of benefits that would give consumers a consistent way to compare health plans in the individual and small group markets. (See Essential Benefits PDF [4] for more.)

• A proposed rule implementing and expanding employment-based wellness programs to promote health and help control health care spending.

Tom Wenning, executive vice president, National Grocers Association, said his group was reviewing the rules, which were issued late Tuesday and encompass 300 pages.

“One of the primary things that this rolls out is coverage for all pre-existing conditions, which, as most analysts have said, is probably one of the more expensive things that is going to be included in the law,” he said. “Our members will be watching closely to see what this is going to do to their premium costs.”

He also noted that there were still a lot of areas that “need to be filled in” in terms of defining “essential benefits” and how the law is adopted at the state level.

“This is kind of what we anticipated, that there would be a wave of proposed rules after the election,” he said.

Food Marketing Institute said it was also reviewing the proposed rules.

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