KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Health Insurance And New Laws: Questions Still Abound

Health insurance questions and problems are in the news this weekend.

In Massachusetts, individuals and small businesses are in limbo about their future rates, The Boston Globe reports: "Hundreds of individuals and owners of small businesses seeking to buy health insurance this week were turned away from the state's Health Connector website as the standoff between insurers and Massachusetts regulators dragged" on. Insurers are "looking to Suffolk Superior Court Judge Stephen E. Neel for guidance on how, or whether, to comply with a state directive to prepare new quotes - and post them on the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority's site - using 2009 base figures rather than proposed higher rates that were rejected by state regulators last week. ... Neel is expected to rule Monday on the insurers' request for an injunction that would allow them to go ahead with implementing double-digit increases that were denied last week by the state Division of Insurance" (Weisman, 4/10)

Worcester Business Journal: "'It's complete chaos,' said Paul Pietro of Mid-State Insurance Agency Inc. in Worcester. 'It's a complete nightmare.' The debacle for brokers began in mid-February when Patrick enacted emergency legislation requiring that health insurers submit rate increases for small businesses 30 days before they go into effect to allow the Division of Insurance a chance to review and possibly reject rates. ... Most insurance brokers are sympathetic to both sides" (Butler, 4/12).

(Riverside, Ca.) The Press-Enterprise: "With last month's passage of health care legislation, families and businesses across Inland Southern California and beyond are scrambling to determine how -- and how soon -- the overhaul will impact them. ... Some key components of the bill will begin immediately or within the next six months, including new rules allowing young adults to remain on their parents' plans longer and barring insurance companies from denying coverage to children based on pre-existing conditions" (Hines and Goad, 4/10).

The Missoulian: "The most dramatic changes in health insurance under federal reform aren't on tap until 2014 - but some changes, like limits on industry profits or new coverage requirements, are happening much more quickly. In Montana, health insurers and regulators not only are preparing to enact these changes, but also are trying to gauge the overall impact on the cost and availability of coverage." The Missoulian looks at "key insurance provisions taking effect within the next year," which include:  "after September, insurers can't deny coverage for children because of a pre-existing health condition. The same rule won't apply to all citizens until 2014. ... Policies cannot place lifetime limits on benefits, after September. Limits on annual benefits also will be restricted" (Dennison, 4/10).

The New York Times: "You may not yet be aware, though, of another notable improvement to insurance, a change that could save a consumer or family hundreds of dollars a year. Under the new law, insurers must offer preventive services - like immunizations, cancer screenings and checkups - to consumers as part of the insurance policy, at no additional out-of-pocket charge. The idea is that healthy Americans will be less costly Americans.

'This is transformative,' says Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health, a nonprofit organization for large employers. 'We're moving from an insurance model that was based on treating illness and injury, to a model that's focused on improving an individual's health and identifying risk factors'" (Alderman, 4/9).

Reno Gazette-Journal: "Dr. Debra Hendrickson of Reno asked for clarification on one of the most bantered about claims that I've heard: that the health care bill doesn't apply to Congress. Talk radio and letters to the editor have repeated the claim several times over. In fact, just this week we received two letters claiming just that."

"In fact, the final version of the health care reform legislation eventually passed in March 2010 stated that 'Members of Congress and congressional staff' will have access only to plans that are created by the health care bill or offered through the exchanges established by the bill. ... The claim is flat-out wrong" (4/11).

Related, earlier KHN story: Changes Coming To Insurance Plans (Appleby, 4/6)


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