Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hump Day Headlines

Well, the new appeals regulations didn't come out yesterday, so they are expected today. Word is it's bad news. I'll be back with the details later. But for now, here's the news:

And now, $2 trillion is cuts is not enough to satisfy the deficit hawks. Sometimes I think nothing will satisfy them other than eliminating the federal government -- except for their jobs, of course. Meanwhile, the GOP is split on whether to accept a short-term raising of the debt limit if a deal has not been reached in time, with the Senate favoring it and the House opposing.

Contrary to a questionable study released last week, a study released yesterday says the health reform law will stabilize employer-based health insurance coverage. The law will provide tax breaks to small businesses who provide coverage, too, so it will help small employers provide insurance.

The health reform law also is allowing doctors to spend more time with patients enrolled in Medicare, for whom annual check-ups are now free.

Under the health reform law, plans could apply for waivers if compliance with the law before 2014 -- before there are exchanges and subsidies to help people buy insurance -- would essentially change the character of the plan. So many mini-med plans -- McDonald's plan that covers $1000 per year, period, for example -- got waivers from the requirement that annual benefit limits be no less than $750,000 this year. The theory was that a mini-med plan was better than nothing, so instead of ending those plans now, waivers were granted until 2014, when there will be subsidies to help people buy "real" insurance. Well, two genius GOP members of Congress say these waivers are a sign of the health law's failure. So if there was no flexibility under health reform, they'd be screaming about that. If the health reform law had killed mini-med plans, they'd have screamed about that. But allowing some flexibility through a waiver system? They're screaming about that. I hope you aren't listening.

There is a flaw in the health reform law, though. In passing a provision that doesn't count Social Security benefits as income for Medicaid eligibility that was supposed to help the poor disabled, the law inadvertently covers several million early retirees. Clearly, this needs to be fixed, and it will be.

The GOP has opposed a plan to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies -- until now. A House Republican has signed on. This could be a critical piece of the debt reduction plan, allowing Medicare savings to be realized without cutting benefits.

Starting next March, insurance plans will have to provide more easily understood information about the costs and benefits of the plan. Focus groups are already testing prototypes.

Premium prices for the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan go down next month. It's a decent option if you can afford it and you haven't had insurance for 6 months.

Is redundant paperwork the biggest waste of health care spending? Some think so.

Coupons for low cost health care? Really? Coupons? Whatever works, I suppose.

Medication compliance is a really big deal. Nearly three in four Americans don't follow doctor's orders, sometimes due to cost, sometimes due to forgetfulness, sometimes due to their own judgment as to what works and what doesn't. Well, now there's a new tool that doctors can use to predict who will have compliance issues. These are people who would benefit from follow-up phone calls and other reminders.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor speaks out about her stuggles with childhood diabetes. Thank you, Justice Sotomayor, for making it okay to talk about invisible illnesses.

Cigarette packages will soon be adorned by some truly gross photos to help make the point about the harms of smoking.

The Connecticut Insurance Department has approved a 39 percent increase in MetLife long-term care insurance plans. And the Commissioner says we don't need rate review hearings?

And that's it for now, but I expect I'll be back later to tell you about the appeals regs. It's not going to be pretty. In the meantime, have a great day. Jennifer

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