In the two weeks since the end of the election, health care observers have been waiting for an onslaught of regulations related to the Affordable Care Act, as implementation picks up speed next year ahead of the bill's major insurance provisions that begin in 2014.

On Tuesday, with the short holiday week winding down, the Department of Health & Human Services released several proposed regulations — totaling 333 pages — that included guidance on essential health benefits of ACA-approved insurance plans, information on regulations for wellness programs in group health plans and guidance on health insurance market rules.

While some key items have been delayed, most notably the deadline for states to create health insurance exchanges, momentum on key insurance provisions is likely to pick up speed in coming months.  Open enrollment in health insurance exchanges begins Oct. 1, 2013, in time for participants to start receiving coverage Jan. 1, 2014, which doesn’t leave much time for insurers to digest key provisions around essential health benefits and finalize their offerings.

Some of the proposed rules are simply the finished product of well-known ACA provisions, including the item prohibiting insurers from barring patients with preexisting conditions. Other key items include allowing insurers to charge extra for tobacco users, while incenting smokers to quit via smoking cessation programs that would offer deep discounts for participation. In addition, the proposed rules would allow insurers to offer rewards of up 30 percent of the total cost for participating in wellness programs, up from 20 percent today.

My colleague, Marty Stempniak, who covers the insurance beat for H&HN, will have more enhanced coverage of what these proposed rules mean, including reaction from providers and insurers, when H&HN Daily returns from its holiday break next Monday, Nov. 27.

Have a great Thanksgiving.