KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

New Year Triggers Several Key Provisions Of Health Law

It's the new year and that means a number of the provisions of the new health law go into effect, news outlets report. 

The Wall Street Journal: Big Health-Care Changes Arrive In New Year
New taxes on drug makers, lower prescription-drug costs for seniors and restrictions on tax-free medical spending accounts are among a slate of health-law provisions that kick in Saturday. The changes show how the law will begin to reshape American health care, even as opponents try to overturn the measure in Congress and the courts. Although House Republicans are threatening to starve the law of funding and stage a symbolic repeal vote, those actions aren't likely to block any significant pieces of the law aimed at consumers for 2011. That's because the changes generally involve new rules and don't require spending (Adamy, 12/31).

The Washington Post: New Health-Care Rules To Take Effect
The new year will bring important changes to U.S. health-insurance rules, as new provisions related to last year's massive health-care overhaul take effect. The new rules are designed to help those caught in Medicare's "doughnut hole," offer seniors more preventative care, and limit how much of their customers' money health-insurance companies can keep for overhead and profit. They all go into effect on Saturday. These provisions were not affected by a Dec. 13 federal court ruling in Virginia that declared another piece of the new health-care law -- the requirement that all Americans buy health insurance -- unconstitutional (Fahrenthold, 12/31).

The New York Post: ObamaCare's Here!
Several of President Obama's health-care laws take effect today, including new rules that will help as many as 3 million Medicare recipients pay their prescription bills and a new mandate for health-insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent of premiums on improving patient care. While incoming GOP lawmakers are vowing to overturn health-care reform, most of the new programs that take effect this year don't require congressional appropriations and can be put in place immediately (Miller, 1/1).

CNN: 2011: Incredible Shrinking Doughnut Hole (And More)
Along with noisemakers, hangovers and second-tier bowl games, the new year rolls in changes to health insurance rules that stand to save Americans – especially those over age 65 – a lot of money in 2011. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) – "Obamacare," to critics – was signed into law in March but was built to take effect in stages. Several key provisions take effect on Saturday. The most prominent change will shrink the so-called "doughnut hole" (Hellerman, 12/31).

The New York Times:  Incentivize Your Way to Good Health in 2011
New year, new you. You've heard it before and probably said it out loud as part of various resolutions you've made over the years. But now, an increasing number of employers want to get into the act: They want to shape you up by paying you or otherwise bribing you to do so. ... Two things have happened recently that will probably bring more incentives to more people. First, the new health care law explicitly grants permission to employers to offer rewards of at least 30 percent of the total cost of health insurance to employees. Those winnings, often in the form of lower premiums, will go to people who join wellness programs and hit certain health goals. Second, UnitedHealth Group, one of the nation's largest insurance companies, now has its own program, called Personal Rewards. Companies like Pitney Bowes and Jones Lang LaSalle, a real estate services firm, have signed up (Lieber, 12/31).

The Wall Street Journal: Drug Approvals Slipped In 2010
The Food and Drug Administration approved about 21 drugs in 2010, a relatively modest figure that shows the pharmaceutical industry hasn't yet escaped its drought in recent years. A few potential blockbusters won approval during the year, but some of the most highly anticipated new products got delayed into next year or beyond. That partly reflects a tougher environment at the FDA, with regulators stepping up their scrutiny of safety issues in drugs for obesity, diabetes and other conditions (Corbett Dooren, 12/31).

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