Proposal Would Require Insurers To Report Health Law Taxes


English: , member of the United States Senate....

English: , member of the United States Senate. Español: John Cornyn, un senador del Senado de los Estados Unidos (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The measure’s sponsor, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, bills it as a
way to educate consumers about how the health law’s benefits are funded.

The Hill: Insurers Would Report ObamaCare Taxes Under GOP Bill

A new bill from Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) would require health insurers
to disclose taxes they pay under ObamaCare to policyholders. In a
statement Monday, Cornyn touted the measure as a way to educate
consumers about how the Affordable Care Act’s benefits are funded
(4/22).

Also in the news, health law opponents are pressing for repeal of the
health law’s medical device tax, among other provisions, in
comprehensive tax reform legislation –

Roll Call: Health Law Tax Foes Find Hope In Overhaul Effort

Proponents of doing away with provisions such as the medical-device tax
and the annual fee on health insurance companies say they already have
bipartisan support for their repeal legislation. But the efforts still
will face health care politics and the need for significant offsets,
making their inclusion far from certain as lawmakers work toward
comprehensive tax legislation that can pass in both chambers (Attias,
4/22).

This is part of Kaiser Health News‘ Daily Report – a summary
of health policy coverage from more than 300 news organizations. The
full summary of the day’s news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.

Insurer Centene: We Can Do Arkansas-Style Medicaid


English: House Bill and Senate Bill subsidies ...

English: House Bill and Senate Bill subsidies for health insurance premiums. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Jay Hancock

April 23rd, 2013, 3:33 PM

Arkansas
is the latest and perhaps best hope for those who want states resistant
to the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion to reconsider.

Illustration by Darwinek via Wikimedia Commons

Last week the Arkansas legislature approved
a plan to give Medicaid beneficiaries money to buy individual policies
from private insurers on the state’s health insurance exchange — the
subsidized, online markeplaces due to be in business next year. The
governor signed the bill Tuesday — making it law.

The Department of Health and Human Services, which has said it “will consider approving a limited number” of such arrangements, still needs to negotiate details and sign off.

One insurer is already expressing interest.

“We
are very capable of doing an Arkansas-type model,” Centene Corp. CEO
Michael Neidorff said Tuesday. “That’s something that would be a sweet
spot for us.”

Centene sees opportunity in participating in the
health law’s coverage expansions, whether Arkansas-style or not. It
already runs Medicaid managed care plans for those with very low incomes
in several states, although not in Arkansas. Now it wants to offer
plans to individuals with slightly higher incomes through the exchanges.

“We
believe we can achieve increased profitability in 2014 upon the
commencement of the ACA,” Neidorff told stock analysts Tuesday. “The
exchange market represents the largest growth opportunity for Centene
over the next several years, estimated at $52 billion in our existing
markets.”

Policy analysts expect considerable “churn”
from members moving between the ACA’s expanded Medicaid program and
commercial policies sold on the exchanges as their incomes fluctuate.
Centene wants to be on both sides of the line, selling “a product that
offers people a comfortable transition,” said K. Rone Baldwin, chief of
the company’s insurance group.

Whether managed by Centene or some
other carrier, private, individual insurance in the Arkansas mode could
help Medicaid members keep the same doctor and otherwise minimize
disruptions when they graduate to a non-Medicaid exchange plan, some
have suggested.

The Arkansas model faces large questions. Not least are those about cost.
Commercial insurance of the type Arkansas sees covering Medicaid
members typically pays doctors and hospitals more than traditional
Medicaid or Medicaid managed care plans like Centene runs.

But the plan is being praised as a “conservative alternative” to Obamacare classic and is reportedly being eyed by Pennsylvania, Ohio and other states resisting the Medicaid expansion.

Centene
executives spoke to investment analysts on a conference call about the
company’s quarterly profits. Like other insurers, they were coy about
saying where they plan to offer exchange plans and on what terms.

“We
do expect to be on the exchanges in a subset of the places where we
have health plans today, and we’re entering into contracts with
hospitals,” said Baldwin. How well will Centene be paying those
hospitals to care for its exchange members? “It’s certainly not exactly
at [lower] Medicaid rates but I wouldn’t say it’s exactly at [higher]
commercial rates either,” he added.

The company earned $23 million for the quarter on revenue of $2.5 billion.

Concerns Raised About Effect Of Medicare’s Readmission Penalty


English: Created by vectorizing Image:Medicare...

English: Created by vectorizing Image:Medicare and Medicaid GDP Chart.png with Inkscape (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English:

English: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Image representing New York Times as depicted ...

Image via CrunchBase

Topics: Delivery of Care, Health Costs, Hospitals, Marketplace, Medicare, States

Apr 01, 2013

The New York Times explores the new policy that penalizes hospitals if they have too many patients return within 30 days. Meanwhile, in Maryland, officials are weighing an ambitious plan to control hospital costs.

The New York Times: Hospitals Question Medicare Rules On Readmissions
While federal statistics show the effort is beginning to reduce costly and unnecessary readmissions, a growing chorus of critics is asking whether the government policy, which penalizes hospitals that have high readmission rates, is unfair. They are also questioning whether hospitals should be responsible for managing the personal lives of patients once they are released — or whether they should focus on other ways to improve care (Abelson, 3/29).

Kaiser Health News: Maryland’s Tough New Hospital Spending Proposal Seen As ‘Nationally Significant’
Maryland officials have proposed what analysts call the most ambitious initiative in the country to control soaring medical spending, a plan that would bring relief to employers and consumers footing the bill while bluntly challenging the state’s powerful hospital industry. The blueprint, which needs the Obama administration’s approval, would use Maryland’s unique rate-setting system to keep hospital spending from growing no faster than the overall economy — roughly half its recent rate of increase (Hancock, 4/1).

In other health industry news, federal officials release more details about hospital problems and a federal watchdog focuses on Medicare spending for equipment.

The Associated Press: Reports Of Hospital Mistakes Now Available Online
At St. Charles Medical Center in Bend, (Oregon) employees failed to notice that a cleaning machine was accidentally reprogrammed to leave out the disinfection cycle. Eighteen patients received colonoscopies with scopes that had been only rinsed with water and alcohol. … Hospitals make mistakes. When they are reported — by patients, employees or family members — state and federal officials investigate. Now, for the first time, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) has released those inspection reports for hospitals nationwide from the past two years. The release was in response to requests from the Association of Health Care Journalists, which has compiled them into a searchable database available to the public
(Peterson, 3/31).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: IG Report Slaps Medicare For Not Recouping More Overpayment For Equipment
Medicare has made nearly $70 million in overpayments to suppliers of consumer medical equipment and more than half of that money is unlikely to be recovered, according to a new report from the Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General (Carey, 4/1).

This is part of Kaiser Health News’ Daily Report – a summary of health policy coverage from more than 300 news organizations. The full summary of the day’s news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.

States Boost Laws, Regulations Governing Abortion


English: Histogram of abortions by gestational...

English: Histogram of abortions by gestational age for the United States in 2004. Horizontal axis is weeks and vertical axis is thousands of abortions. Data is taken from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss5609a1.htm#tab6 Updated version of Image:US abortion by gestational age 2002 histogram.svg, but data is almost identical. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Time series of induced abortions in Norway

Time series of induced abortions in Norway (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Topics: Delivery of Care, Women’s Health, Politics, States

Apr 01, 2013

States have passed a record number of abortion bills since 2011, including curbs on clinics and chemically induced abortions, and in North Dakota, a ban on abortions as early as six weeks. On the other side, New York and Washington are weighing measures to ensure abortion rights.

The Wall Street Journal: States Harden Views Over Laws Governing Abortion
States are becoming increasingly polarized over abortion, as some legislatures pass ever-tighter restrictions on the procedure while others consider stronger legal protections for it, advocates on both sides say. … At the same time, Washington state is weighing a measure that would require all insurers doing business in new health insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act to reimburse women for abortions. And New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo is seeking to update his state’s laws to clarify that women can obtain an abortion late in pregnancy if they have a medical reason (Radnofsky, 3/31).

The Associated Press: Abortion Clinics Need License, Check For Coercion
Michigan abortion clinics will need a state license and must check to make sure women are not being bullied or pressured into getting an abortion under a new law that took effect Sunday. Other regulations make clearer the proper disposal of fetal remains, after anti-abortion advocates expressed concern some were not disposed of with dignity (Eggert, 3/31).

In Montana, lawmakers are seeking to cut funding to some organizations that provide women’s health care.

The Associated Press: Women’s Health Funding Faces Cuts: House Budget Excludes $4.5M For Title X Funds
When Jennifer Strickley first learned she had ovarian cancer, it was Planned Parenthood that detected the disease. She had been going to a clinic in Billings (Montana) for about a decade, as the discounts on Pap tests, contraception and regular checkups provided an essential break for the single mom working without health insurance as a waitress to support her two kids … Strickley is one of 26,000 Montanans who rely upon clinics that receive federal family planning and preventive health funds in the form of Title X. … But the Montana House unanimously passed a state budget that excludes these funds — some $4.5 million — accounting for 30 percent of the budgets for 20 community clinics and five Planned Parenthood Clinics in the state (4/1).

This is part of Kaiser Health News‘ Daily Report – a summary of health policy coverage from more than 300 news organizations. The full summary of the day’s news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.

Supporters Of Medicaid Expansion Fight To Be Heard In Some Statehouses


Topics: Medicaid, Politics, Health Costs, Health Reform, States

Apr 01, 2013

Mississippi House Democrats blocked passage of the state’s Medicaid budget Sunday to force a vote on expanding the program, while supporters and critics do battle in Missouri, Montana and Arkansas.

Clarion Ledger: Mississippi House Democrats Block Medicaid Budget
House Democrats on Sunday night blocked passage of the $840 million Medicaid budget, a move to try to force a vote on expanding the program and to block Gov. Phil Bryant from running it by executive order. “The federal government is offering venture capital to expand the largest industry we’ve got in this state, and we can’t even get a vote and debate on it,” said Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville. “So we’re doing what we have to do. We are going to have an up-or-down vote on Medicaid expansion — it may be in a special session — or we are not going to have Medicaid” (Pender, 3/31).

The Associated Press: FACT CHECK: Corbett And The Medicaid Expansion
For now, (Pennsylvania) Gov. Tom Corbett has decided against embracing an expansion of Medicaid that could extend taxpayer-paid health care coverage to hundreds of thousands of low-income adult Pennsylvanians. The 2010 Affordable Care Act pledges to shoulder the lion’s share of the cost of the expansion, but Corbett says he is still concerned about the cost to Pennsylvania taxpayers and cautions that the federal government cannot always be trusted to deliver on its funding promises to states. Here is a look at the validity of some of his claims about the Medicaid expansion (Levy, 3/31).

The Associated Press/Kansas City Star: Medicaid Debate In Missouri Gets Hyperbolic
If Missouri expands Medicaid health coverage for lower-income adults, could it create a crisis for public schools? If Missouri fails to expand Medicaid, could it result in millions of Missourians‘ tax dollars going to health care in other states? In the tense Medicaid debate at the Missouri Capitol, both assertions have been put forth as plain facts by opponents or supporters of a plan that could add as many as 300,000 adults to the Medicaid rolls. But they might best be labeled as hyperbole (Lieb, 3/31).

Helena Independent Record: Democrats Vow To Pass Medicaid Expansion As Republicans Say It Will Blow State Budget
Last week, Republicans on two legislative committees used their majorities to kill Democrat-sponsored bills to expand the program starting in 2014. Gov. Steve Bullock and fellow Democrats vow to keep searching for a way to pass the expansion, although it could be difficult, as long as Republican majorities at the Legislature oppose it (Dennison, 3/31).

The Associated Press: Health Care, Tax Cuts Issues Colliding (AP Analysis)
How do you convince Republicans who took over the Arkansas Legislature by vowing to fight “Obamacare” to support government-subsidized health insurance? The same way you convince a Democratic governor who has said his budget can’t include more tax cuts to agree to a large package of reductions. As Arkansas lawmakers approach what could be the final weeks of this year’s session, it’s becoming clearer that proposals to expand health insurance to low-income workers and to cut $100 million in taxes are colliding (DeMillo, 3/31).

Baltimore Sun: Health Reform’s Changes Stir Worries As They Take Shape In Md.
State lawmakers put finishing touches last week on plans to apply federal health care reforms in Maryland come Jan. 1. But who becomes newly insured — and at what cost —still worries stakeholders as the state speeds toward becoming one of the first to adopt a revamped system. Under legislation passed by the House of Delegates and Senate, more low-income Marylanders would qualify for government-funded health care through Medicaid, and an existing tax on health insurers would sustain a new insurance marketplace once federal support wanes (Dance, 3/31).

This is part of Kaiser Health News‘ Daily Report – a summary of health policy coverage from more than 300 news organizations. The full summary of the day’s news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.

Image representing Associated Press as depicte...

Image via CrunchBase

GOP Opposition To Health Law Hurts Efforts To Court Hispanics


Obamacare Protest at Supreme Court

Obamacare Protest at Supreme Court (Photo credit: southerntabitha)

Topics: Health Costs, Insurance, Medicaid, Politics, Health Reform, States

Apr 01, 2013

The Los Angeles Times reports that Latinos, who have the lowest rates of health coverage in the country, are among the strongest supporters of the health law. Meanwhile, AP examines the hard opposition to the overhaul in the South, led by Republican governors representing some of the poorest and least healthy states.

Los Angeles Times: Healthcare An Obstacle As Republicans Court Latinos
As Republican leaders try to woo Latino voters with a new openness to legal status for the nation’s illegal immigrants, the party remains at odds with America‘s fastest-growing ethnic community on another key issue: healthcare. Latinos, who have the lowest rates of health coverage in the country, are among the strongest backers of President Obama’s healthcare law (Levey, 3/31).

The Associated Press: The South: A Near-Solid Block Against ‘Obamacare’
As more Republicans give in to President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul, an opposition bloc remains across the South, including from governors who lead some of the nation’s poorest and unhealthiest states…So why are these states holding out? The short-term calculus seems heavily influenced by politics (Barrow, 3/31).

The Hill: GOP Seeks To Benefit From Sebelius Admission On Healthcare Cost Hikes
Republican campaign officials are claiming new momentum for 2014 after the Obama administration admitted that some consumers could see their health insurance premiums rise under healthcare reform. This week’s surprise concession from federal Health secretary Kathleen Sebelius played into the GOP’s No. 1 message against the Affordable Care Act — that it will raise healthcare costs. The remark triggered a rush of campaign messaging against vulnerable Democrats who supported healthcare reform (Viebeck, 3/31).

Federal Officials Look To Mass Marketing To Sell Health Law


Pete Souza, Official White House Photographer

Pete Souza, Official White House Photographer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Topics: Insurance, Medicaid, Politics, Health Reform, States

Apr 01, 2013

The administration faces a tough challenge to get the public to understand and accept the health law — and, then, to sign up the millions without coverage.

The Associated Press: Can Mass Marketing Heal The Splits On ‘Obamacare’?
How do you convince millions of average Americans that one of the most complex and controversial programs devised by government may actually be a good deal for them? With the nation still split over President Barack Obama’s health care law, the administration has turned to the science of mass marketing for help in understanding the lives of uninsured people, hoping to craft winning pitches for a surprisingly varied group in society (Alonso-Zaldivar, 4/1).

Kaiser Health News: Why Uninsured Might Not Flock To Health Law‘s Marketplaces
With almost one in five of its residents lacking health insurance, officials in Palm Beach County thought they had hit on a smart solution. The county launched a program that offered subsidized coverage to residents who couldn’t afford private insurance, but made too much to qualify for Medicaid, the state-federal program for the poor. Enrollees would be able to buy policies for about $52 a month — far cheaper than what private insurers were offering. But a year after the program began, fewer than 500 people had signed up — less than a third of the number expected (Galewitz, 4/1).

NPR: Three Years On, States Still Struggle With Health Care Law Messaging
It is hard to imagine that after three years of acrimony and debate we could still be so confused about President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. … There are essentially three big pieces to the Affordable Care Act: the insurance reforms (also known as the patients’ bill of rights), quality and cost measures, and the health care mandate. …. For consumers, however, it doesn’t matter if you’re in Texas or California or anywhere else in the country, the law is clear: The uninsured are expected to get coverage by January. Whether those folks will be informed and ready by then is not so clear (Sullivan, 3/30).

The Medicare NewsGroup: Obama’s 2014 Budget Could Mean Significant Change For Medicare
On April 10, President Obama will enter the ongoing 2014 budget battle when the White House releases its budget blueprint, joining Senate Democrats and both parties in the House in a partisan scuffle over the nation’s fiscal future. If it’s anything like what the president put forth last year, the Medicare-related parts of the White House budget will focus on containing costs by reforming the Medicare payment system and reducing fraud and waste while maintaining the Traditional Medicare structure (Adamopoulos, 3/31).

Meanwhile, federal officials released rules Friday reiterating their plans for expanded Medicaid funding under the health law –

Modern Healthcare: CMS Considering Waivers For Private Coverage Medicaid Alternative
The Obama administration is showing willingness to let some states steer new Medicaid funding to private coverage in the new individual insurance marketplaces in order meet the coverage goals of the healthcare reform law. The CMS will consider granting a “limited number” of state waivers for demonstration that test what happens when states give Medicaid enrollees the option of taking a subsidy to buy a private plan, according to new guidance issued Friday (Blesch, 3/31).

Bloomberg: Some U.S. States Can Shift Medicaid Funds To Exchanges
Low-income people may get Medicaid money to buy health insurance from private plans such as UnitedHealth Group Inc. (UNH) or Humana Inc. (HUM) in a “limited number” of states, U.S. officials said. Arkansas and Ohio have asked President Barack Obama’s administration to allow them to adjust how Medicaid dollars are used (Wayne, 3/30).

The Hill: Obama Administration Finalizes Key Affordable Care Act Rule
The federal government will reimburse states for 100 percent of the costs for some newly eligible Medicaid patients, under new regulations finalized Friday as part of the Obama administration’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The healthcare law authorizes states to expand Medicaid to adults under 65 with incomes up to 135 percent of the federal poverty level — roughly $15,000 for a single adult in 2012 (Goad, 3/29).

This is part of Kaiser Health News’ Daily Report – a summary of health policy coverage from more than 300 news organizations. The full summary of the day’s news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.