Olive Garden’s Parent Company Lowers Earnings Estimate After Health Law Comments

Topics: Health Costs, Marketplace, Health Reform

Dec 05, 2012

Restaurant officials say that earlier statements about the costly effects of the health overhaul have contributed to a reduction in revenues.

Politico: Obamacare Press Hits Olive Garden
Harsh press coverage of how the Olive Garden and Red Lobster are implementing Obamacare depressed earnings, the restaurants’ owner says. The company offered a lower earnings estimate for fiscal year 2013 on Tuesday, citing in part the media’s reporting on the company’s handling of the new health care law. The chains’ owner, Darden, has in the past been outspoken about what it viewed as adverse effects of the new health care law, taking steps like moving some employees to part-time status to reduce costs (Glueck, 12/5).

Los Angeles Times: Olive Garden Parent Darden Suffers From Bad Specials, ‘Obamacare’
The Olive Garden, Red Lobster and LongHorn Steakhouse parent lowered its profit and revenue projections for the quarter ended Nov. 25, blaming sour promotions in its eateries, Superstorm Sandy, its purchase of the Yard House USA chain and even its efforts to mitigate the coming costs of health care reform, also known as “Obamacare” (Hsu, 12/4).

The Hill: Restaurant Chain Says Criticizing ‘ObamaCare‘ May Hurt Its Earnings
Darden is one of several large employers to consider rolling back workers’ hours in response to the Affordable Care Act. But the company said Tuesday that negative publicity surrounding that position might be bad for business. … The company said it would figure out how to make the new health care requirements work. After saying Darden’s brands are working to improve their products and marketing, (Darden CEO Clarence) Otis added that “we are also committed to accommodating health care reform in ways that work for our employees and guests” (Baker, 12/4).

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.

English: President Barack Obama, Vice Presiden...

English: President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and senior staff, react in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, as the House passes the health care reform bill. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Medicare Part B Premiums Up $5 Per Month Next Year

Dr. Mark B. McClellan http://www.fda.gov/oc/co...

Dr. Mark B. McClellan http://www.fda.gov/oc/commissioners/mcclellan.html (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Topics: Medicare, Health Costs

Nov 19, 2012

The increase will eat about a quarter of a typical retiree’s cost-of-living raise in Social Securitypayments.The Associated Press/New York Times: Medicare Premiums To Rise By $5 A Month
Medicare premiums will rise by $5 a month next year, the government said Friday. That is less than expected, but enough to consume about a fourth of a typical retiree’s cost-of-living raise in Social Security payments next year (11/16).

Modern Healthcare: HHS Announces Changes To Medicare Premiums, Deductibles
Medicare Part B premiums will rise in 2013 while Part A premiums will fall, HHS announced Friday. Published in the Federal Register, the notice said the standard premium for Medicare Part B — which covers physician, outpatient hospital and certain home health services, as well as durable medical equipment — will be $104.90, a 5 percent increase over the 2012 premium of $99.90. The deductible for Part B services next year will be $147, up from $140. Meanwhile, premiums for Part A will drop by $10 to $441 for 2013. Medicare Part A covers inpatient hospitals, skilled-nursing facilities and some home health care (Zigmond, 11/16).

CQ HealthBeat: Medicare Part B Premium Increase Modest For 2013
With health care inflation relatively stable, officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released rules Friday that include a $5-per-month increase in Medicare Part B premiums and a $28 hike in the hospital inpatient deductible. The Part B premium will reach a milestone, however, topping $100 a month. The monthly payment for Part B, which covers doctor visits, outpatient hospital services, home health care and other items, will be $104.90 next year, compared to the current $99.90. And the deductible for inpatient hospital stays will go to $1,184 in 2013 from $1,156 this year. One item will be decreasing: the Part A monthly premium, which pays for inpatient hospital stays, skilled nursing facilities and some home care for about 1 percent of Medicare beneficiaries who do not automatically qualify for the program. That premium will be $441 a month, down $10 a month from this year (11/16).

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.

Viewpoints: Voters Voice Abortion Positions; Obama’s ‘Tough Road Ahead’ On Health Reforms; Mass. Paves The Way On Cost Control?

Topics: Health Reform, Politics, Marketplace, Insurance, Women’s Health, Supreme Court, Health Costs

Nov 09, 2012

The New York Times: Voters Speak on Abortion Rights
On Election Day, Florida voters wisely rejected a proposed amendment to the State Constitution that would prohibit abortion coverage as part of health plans for state workers and Medicaid recipients (such coverage is already severely limited by law). … The measure received only 45 percent of the vote — far short of the 60 percent required for a constitutional change. The defeat should send a strong message to politicians in Florida and elsewhere who might want to broadly attack women’s reproductive rights (11/8).

Los Angeles Times: The Tough Road Ahead
[Obama] earned reelection by keeping the country from falling into a depression and persuading Congress to enact vital reforms to healthcare and the financial industry. … As hard fought as the campaign was, the task of governing this divided country will be even more difficult. … The longer-term problem for the president will be coping with the dueling pressures of an economy that’s growing too slowly and a federal debt that’s growing too fast, largely because of the rising cost of Medicare and Medicaid (11/8).

Minnesota Star Tribune: Health Care Shopping
Teamwork still will be needed to build a Minnesota health exchange, even though the DFL now has the legislative votes and the governor’s signature to unilaterally make the new online health insurance shopping site a reality. … The new DFL leadership can create the sorely needed buy-in by inviting the business community and Republicans back to the table. The main mission for Minnesota’s exchange: getting consumers to use it. Gathering good ideas and forging a consensus among stakeholders will create the foundation to make that happen (11/8).

The Lund Report: A New Way Of Shopping For Health Insurance Gets A Trial Run
Earlier this week, I took part in a trial run of the user interface system for the website of the Oregon health insurance exchange — now called Cover Oregon. Cover Oregon is a lot of things: a new marketplace for health insurance, a means to leverage the buying power of hundreds of thousands of Oregonians to drive a hard bargain with the insurance industry, and a new way to spark competition between insurers, to the benefit of consumers. But it’s also a website, and like all big IT projects, it faces some real challenge (Jesse Ellis O’Brien, 11/8).

WBUR’s Cognoscenti: Advice To The Next President: Health Care Cost Containment
As anyone following the 2012 election knows, Massachusetts has served as a model for the expansion of health care coverage nationally. … Now, Massachusetts could become the standard bearer for how to get costs under control. In August of this year, state lawmakers passed landmark legislation aimed at containing rising health care costs. In a discussion held just days before Tuesday’s election, four veteran observers of and participants in Massachusetts’ ongoing efforts to provide universal health care access at affordable prices … offered their advice to the next president (David Seltz, James Roosevelt, Regina Herzlinger, and Stephen D’Amato, 11/8).

Minnesota Post: Time For Minnesota To Move Forward On Health Care Reform
Thursday, the Access Work Group of the Minnesota Health Care Reform Task Force will vote on whether to recommend that the state cover nearly all non-elderly individuals with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line through Medicaid … A “yes” vote from the Work Group will keep Minnesota moving forward on improving access to affordable health insurance. If Minnesota fails to expand Medicaid, it will not only increase costs for the state, for people with private insurance and for health care providers, it will also leave tens of thousands of Minnesotans struggling to get the health care they need (Christina Wessel, 11/8) .

Bill Clinton made health care reform one of th...

Bill Clinton made health care reform one of the highest priorities of his administration. He asked the First Lady to chair the Task Force on National Health Care Reform. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

Trinity Health, Catholic Health East Announce Plans To Merge

Trinity Health (Novi, Michigan)

Trinity Health (Novi, Michigan) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Jenny Gold

October 17th, 2012, 1:42 PM

Big news today in the land of hospital mergers and acquisitions.

undefinedThe boards of two leading Catholic health systems, Trinity Health and Catholic Health East, have announced plans to join forces in 2013.

The consolidated Catholic health system would include 82 hospitals and 89 continuing care facilities, home health and hospice programs. The two health systems together have nearly 2.8 million visits each year across 21 states. They employ more than 87,000 employees, including 4,100 doctors.

The merger is aimed, in part, at preparing for a new system of care that is moving away from fee-for-service medicine and toward a focus on population-based health, where providers are offered financial incentives to keep patients healthy and lower costs through better-coordinated care.

“By bringing Catholic Health East and Trinity Health together, we will enhance our ability to create innovative models of care and advance clinical quality across the continuum,” said Judith Persichilli, president and CEO, Catholic Health East in a press release.

Hospital systems across the country are facing growing financial pressure to consolidate or expand by merging with or acquiring other providers. But expanding Catholic health systems has proved difficult in other parts of the county.  Several proposed mergers between Catholic and secular hospitals, for example, have collapsed in part because of concerns about the Catholic Church’s opposition to abortions, in-vitro fertilizations and sterilizations.

In January, Catholic Healthcare West, which primarily operates in California, Arizona and Nevada, decided to end its governing board’s affiliation with the Catholic Church and changed its name to Dignity Health to make it easier to merge with secular hospitals.

Today’s announcement represents another option: Maintain the religious character of the system by merging with another Catholic system.

“A unified ministry allows us to better leverage our talents and size, and to use our resources more effectively in furtherance of our mission,” said Dennis Fitzpatrick, chairperson of Catholic Health East’s board of directors. “Together, we will have a greater ability to influence and transform health care at the national level.”

Top 10 Catholic Health Care Systems

Top 10 Catholic Health Care Systems (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The two systems will pursue the merger over the next few months with the goal of reaching a definitive agreement by next spring. If the merger is completed, the combined system would have annual operating revenues of about $13.3 billion and assets of about $19.3 billion.

Debate Coverage, Cont.: Questions Emerge About Health Care Facts

Barack Obama signing the Patient Protection an...

Barack Obama signing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act at the White House (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mitt Romney presidential campaign, 2008

Mitt Romney presidential campaign, 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

Oct 05, 2012

News outlets offer more analysis of Wednesday night’s debate, including examinations of plans and proposals about Medicare and pre-existing conditions.

The New York Times: Entering Stage Right, Romney Moved To Center
[H]e praised the Massachusetts health care bill, calling it a “model for the nation.” … This week, he pivoted to the center, as many political analysts had long expected him to do, seeking to appeal to more centrist general election voters. In doing so, Mr. Romney used striking new language to describe his policy proposals on taxes, education and health care in ways that may assuage independent voters — but which may be sowing confusion about how Mr. Romney would govern. … his [health care] plan could exclude millions of people (Cooper, Kocieniewski and Calmes, 10/4).

The New York Times’ The Caucus: On Health Care, Two Visions With Their Own Set Of Facts
If there was one area where Mitt Romney and President Obama sometimes seemed to inhabit parallel universes at their debate on Wednesday night — with separate sets of assumptions, beliefs and even facts — it was on the question of health care and government’s role in providing it (Cooper, Goodnough and Pear, 10/4).

The New York Times: Debate Praise For Romney As Obama Is Faulted As Flat
Voters sometimes surprise the pundits by coming to different conclusions about the outcome of a presidential debate. And Mr. Obama’s top strategists predicted that some of Mr. Romney’s answers — in particular, his admissions about the need for a voucher system for Medicare — would deepen the concern in some communities about Mr. Romney’s policies (Shear, 10/4).

The Associated Press/MSN: Romney’s Medicare Plan Raises Cost Questions
Mitt Romney’s Medicare plan won’t try to control costs by limiting the payments that future retirees would use to buy private health insurance, aides say, adding detail to a proposal from the GOP presidential nominee that has both intrigued and confused many Americans. … Independent experts say they doubt that Romney’s Medicare plan can succeed without some kind of hard spending limit; Romney campaign officials say the savings will come through competition among health insurance plans (Alonso-Zaldivar, 10/5).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Debate Blurs Role Of Medicare Cost Board
In defending a cost-control board in his health law, President Barack Obama during Wednesday’s debate cited the Cleveland Clinic as an example of how better health care is actually cheaper. But it’s unlikely the Medicare cost-control board would adopt many of the practices that have lowered costs at the renowned clinic, located in the electoral battleground of Ohio (Burton and Radnofsky, 10/4).

Los Angeles Times: Obama And Romney Both Strayed From Facts In Debate
Obama, whose 2008 pledge to reduce insurance premiums is unfulfilled, continued to overstate the impact of the new healthcare law, claiming erroneously that premium increases had slowed in recent years. In fact, the average employee share of an employer-provided health plan jumped from $3,515 in 2009 to $4,316 in 2012, an increase of more than 22% (10/4).

The Hill: DNC Hits Romney On Pre-Existing Conditions
Democrats launched a new Web video Thursday arguing that people with pre-existing conditions would be “out of luck” under a President Romney. Mitt Romney said in Wednesday night’s presidential debate in Denver that he has a plan to guarantee insurance coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. But Romney did not mention important caveats to his proposal. The Democratic National Committee’s Web video shows media fact-checkers rating Romney’s debate rhetoric as “mostly fiction” (Baker, 10/4).

Politico Pro: Axelrod: We May Call Out Romney More
[Axelrod] pointed to Romney’s pledge to repeal “Obamacare” and provide coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. Axelrod said it was “an assertion that was so audacious that the Romney campaign has to send someone into the spin room after the debate to say he really can’t do that” (Haberkorn, 10/4).

CNN: Romney Adviser Fields Questions On Pre-Existing Conditions
Eric Fehrnstrom, a top aide to Mitt Romney, suggested in a Thursday interview with CNN that the GOP presidential candidate’s health plan may achieve his goal of covering individuals with pre-existing conditions through “state initiatives and money.” … When pressed whether Romney would require states to include a pre-existing conditions stipulation in their legislation, Fehrnstrom answered: … “But, of course, we’d like them to see them continue that pre-existing band for those who have continuous coverage” (Wallace, 10/4).

Modern Healthcare: Healthcare Leaders Weigh In On Debate
Families USA, a liberal healthcare consumer group and champion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, accused Romney of “breathtaking falsehoods and misleading statements” … But analysts at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank on Capitol Hill, said the premium-support model is no more a voucher than is current law (Zigmond, 10/4).

In other news –

Politico: Simpson-Bowles Make Their Comeback
Fifty-eight million Americans saw President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney tangle over former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) and former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles’s deficit reduction plan. …. Now, Simpson and Bowles are looking to retool their deficit reduction package to decrease the amount of revenue it raises — to address those concerns from the right regarding tax increases. And they’re zoning in on increased tweaks to health care programs and want to bolster social safety net protections for low-income Americans — to address concerns from the left (Sherman, 10/4).

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.


Romney (Photo credit: Talk Radio News Service)

Health Insurance Costs Rise, Driven By Higher Hospital, Doctor Prices

Topics: Health Costs, Insurance, Marketplace, Hospitals

Sep 25, 2012

According to a report by the Health Care Cost Institute, insurance spending jumped in 2011 – a departure from the two previous years.

The Washington Post: Health Insurance Costs Accelerate
U.S. spending on health insurance grew at an accelerated rate in 2011, breaking a two-year trend of smaller cost increases. The culprit, a new study suggests, is not Americans seeking more treatment but rather rapid growth in the price of medical care. Spending for private health insurance surged by 4.6 percent in 2011, according to a report from the Health Care Cost Institute. That growth rate is faster than the rest of the economy and higher than the previous year, which had 3.8 percent growth (Kliff, 9/25).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Higher Prices By Providers Drove 2011 Increases, Study Finds
Spending on medical care for Americans with job-based insurance rose 4.6 percent last year, driven mainly by higher prices charged by hospitals and other medical providers, a report out today says. The growth came despite a sluggish economy which some economists thought would translate into more modest spending growth. Still, last year’s per enrollee increase ranks below the 5.8 percent increase in 2009 (Appleby, 9/24).

Modern Healthcare: Healthcare Spending Picked Up In 2011: Report
The Health Care Cost Institute, an insurer-funded not-for-profit research group based in Washington, found per capita healthcare spending on those under age 65 with employer-backed insurance rose 4.6% to $4,547 in 2011. The increase in 2011 follows a rise of 3.8% in 2010 and 5.8% in 2009, based on an analysis of claims data from Aetna, Humana and UnitedHealthcare (Barr, 9/25).

Also in the news –

PBS NewsHour (Video): A PBS Documentary Asks Why Is U.S. Health Care So Expensive?
“Money and Medicine,” a documentary set to air Sept. 25 on PBS, investigates some of the most notorious factors in driving U.S. health care costs. Ray Suarez speaks with director Roger Weisberg about how some of those costs are moving the nation toward financial crisis while still producing relatively mediocre medical results (9/24).

In other marketplace developments –

The Wall Street Journal: Workers Eye ‘Consumer-Directed’ Plans In Bid To Cut Health Costs
It soon will be time for the autumn ritual of open enrollment, as people who get insurance through their employers sign up for next year’s coverage. But this season, which kicks off next week, also will mark a seminal shift—with more workers than ever weighing whether a “consumer-directed” health plan might pay off for them (Marte, 9/24).

Kaiser Health News: Health Plan Open Season Brings Rising Premiums And More Expensive Dependent Coverage
Comparing plans may be easier, though, thanks to new coverage summaries that group health plans and insurers must provide. As employees review their plan options and benefit changes for next year, here are a few changes they can expect (Andrew, 9/24).

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.

English: U.S. Health Insurance Status (Under 65)

English: U.S. Health Insurance Status (Under 65) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Voluntary Insurance Benefits

Share of federal excise taxes paid by US house...

Share of federal excise taxes paid by US households reporting different income levels, 1979-2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Voluntary Insurance Benefits What are Voluntary Benefits? Voluntary benefits are insurance products that employees may choose to purchase through their companies at rates that are lower than they could get on their own. A few examples of voluntary benefits are dental, vision, life, disability, supplemental health and cancer insurance. Many employers offer voluntary benefits because they allow companies to provide a more robust benefits package at no cost to them. How do voluntary benefits work for employees? For an example of how voluntary benefits work we’ll need our good friends Gary and Greta. Tonight, they’re going to a restaurant for dinner. Gary and Greta’s entrées include soup and salad with the price of their meals. In this case, their meal is like their company’s health plan – they get what they want along with a few added extras. Hopefully, their food tastes better than their health plan. Anyway, tonight Gary and Greta want more than the basic entrée, soup and salad. They’d also like to order some appetizers, a bottle of wine and dessert. These extras are kind of like voluntary benefits – Gary and Greta get more than the basic offering, but only pay for what they order. Like appetizers, desserts and wines, voluntary benefits come in many varieties that help protect your financial and physical well-being. For example, for a little extra money that’s simply deducted from his paycheck each month, Gary can purchase disability insurance that will help offset loss of income if he is unable to work due to sickness or injury. He can choose supplemental insurance to cover copays, deductibles or other costs of care not covered by his regular health insurance. And benefits are paid directly to the employee, so Gary can use the money however he needs to. Most consumers don’t plan for loss of income, or for expenses like childcare and travel that are necessitated by illness or injuries but not covered by medical insurance. Yet studies show that unexpected illness and injuries account for more than 350,000 bankruptcies every year. By enrolling in these voluntary benefits, Gary is rewarded with greater peace of mind. As an added bonus, the premiums Gary pays for voluntary benefits are paid using pre-tax dollars. Voluntary benefits may also include options like vision and dental insurance, which can protect more than your eyes and teeth. Annual eye exams, for example, can help detect health problems like diabetes and high blood pressure. And did you know that gum disease is a serious risk factor for heart disease? Keeping your teeth and gums in good shape helps protect your overall health. Now, what are the advantages for employers who offer voluntary benefits? Offering voluntary benefits to employees provides a great incentive for people to stay with your company. Your employees can receive more benefits – and you don’t pay any extra. You’re also helping your employees protect their health, their savings and everything they’ve worked so hard to achieve. As an added bonus, offering voluntary benefits provides the opportunity to lower your payroll taxes with each enrolled employee. Summary of Voluntary Benefits Voluntary benefits allow employees to purchase additional insurance products through their company at rates that are lower than if they bought them on their own. Premiums are paid from pre-tax dollars and deducted from the employee’s paycheck, making payment simple and convenient. Voluntary benefits are also a way for employers to offer an added incentive to employees without having to pay extra. Everybody wins when voluntary benefits are a part of a company’s employee benefits package. What are Voluntary Benefits? Watch Healthcare Video: What are Voluntary Benefits.


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