NPR, February 14, 2017
Michelle Andrews

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[...] Insurers suffered a setback recently when a federal judge temporarily blocked a new rule from the Department of Health and Human Services that was set to go into effect Jan. 13. It would require that dialysis centers inform insurers if the centers are making premium payments either directly or indirectly through a third party for people covered by marketplace plans. Insurers would then have the option of accepting or denying the payments.

In granting the preliminary injunction in late January, U.S. District Court Judge Amos Mazzant in Sherman, Texas, criticized the government's administrative process for establishing the regulation and said it hadn't considered the benefits of private individual insurance or the fact that the rule would leave thousands of patients without coverage.

Insurers were not pleased. "Inappropriate steering and third-party payments increases costs for all consumers, and it risks harm to patients who are often eligible for public coverage options," said Kristine Grow, a spokesperson for America's Health Insurance Plans, an industry group. "We continue to urge [the Department of Health and Human Services] to prohibit these payments when there is alternative coverage for patients."

But patient advocates were delighted. "We thought this was an important win for dialysis patients because it not only spoke to the procedural elements of the rule but to the substance, the potential of dialysis patients to have their coverage taken away," said Hrant Jamgochian, the chief executive of Dialysis Patient Citizens, an advocacy group that was the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit. [...]

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