KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Health Law Hits Consumers, Companies In Complex Ways

News outlets report on the new health law's impact on various segments of the population, including the self-employed, small business owners and seniors.

Los Angeles Times: The broad strokes of the law "get complicated" when they mix "with the variables of everyday life." The Times profiles several people, including a self-employed artist, who may not be able to afford health insurance "even with substantial subsidies. For small-business owners like Pattiy and Steve Knox, there are tax rebates meant to take the sting out of group premiums. But will the help be too little, too late? Sharon Velasquez, a hairdresser on Medicare, has pretty good coverage right now. If surgery pushes her into the so-called doughnut hole where prescription drug coverage cuts out, will the overhaul help her pay the bills?" (Bernstein, Simmons and Cruz, 4/18).

The New York Times: "After months of public wrangling and brinkmanship in Washington, the nation's doctors now find themselves having to answer questions about a 2,400-page law that many do not understand themselves, and which they may have opposed. … Some doctors said their patients were pushing for surgery now, for fear that it will not be covered in the future or that they will end up on a waiting list. ...'People call us confused, panicked, anxious,' [Joseph R. Baker III, president of the Medicare Rights Center] said. 'And in most instances, we say there are some benefits in the short term, like closing the doughnut hole,' as the gap in Medicare prescription drug coverage is known, 'and that the things that might have a negative impact, like lower reimbursement to providers, will happen over a number of years. Usually that calms people down'" (Leland, 4/18).

New Jersey Business News writes about new comparative research in the drug industry. "The legislation builds on $1.1 billion designated for this research in the stimulus bill and creates an institute specializing in comparative studies, with at least $500 million in annual funding starting in 2013. Doctors such as [Harvard Medical School professor Jerry] Avorn and insurance companies led by UnitedHealth Group are racing to take advantage of the influx of money and increased focus. The research pits multiple treatments against one another to determine the best outcome for patients - such as figuring out whether a particular drug is better at addressing high blood pressure than other medicines or lifestyle changes" (4/18).

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