KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Health Reform Law This Week: Some States To Miss Deadline On High-Risk Pools, Tanning Tax Kicks In

News outlets reported on programs in the health reform law that take effect soon.

USA Today: "The key early program of the nation's new health law aims to provide affordable coverage to about 200,000 people with pre-existing medical conditions, such as cancer or diabetes, through federal high-risk insurance pools. The law called for the program to be in place last week, 90 days after its enactment, though the Department of Health and Human Services had said the programs would launch Thursday to coincide with the start of states' fiscal years." The pools will be ready for residents in about 20 states that asked HHS to run the pools for them, USA Today reports, but of the 30 others that are running the pools themselves, 20 will be ready in early or mid-July and 10 are "working through legislative and other issues that may take weeks or months to resolve." In Michigan, for instance, residents won't be able to join the pools until October (Young, 6/28).

In Florida, "government funding for the new coverage plan for these uninsured may only be enough to pay for fewer than 5 percent of those eligible," The (Fort Myers, Fla.) News-Press reports. "State officials estimate up to 750,000 Florida residents could potentially qualify for coverage in the government's high-risk insurance pool. But Jerry Ashford, who runs the Florida Comprehensive Health Association - the state's small, decades-old, high-risk insurance program - says the $351 million federal allocation to Florida may only cover 20,000 to 30,000 residents" (Gluck, 6/28).

Kaiser Health News summarized more news coverage from the weekend regarding how how states are coping with issues related to hard-to-insure people (6/27). 

ABC News: "Republicans have accused the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) of missing key deadlines, such as one requiring the establishment of an advisory committee for an advertising campaign to educate young women about breast cancer" among others. HHS has, however, beaten some deadlines, as it did by sending out rebate checks to seniors who fall into the Medicare prescription "doughnut hole."

"But concerns remain high as to whether HHS - which bears most of the burden of implementing the reforms in the health care law - can effectively meet all of its objectives without making errors. The process for making rules is long and rigorous, and new rules often have to go through multiple agencies and departments" (Khan, 6/28). 

Modern Healthcare reports about another aspect of the new law - an independent advisory board is scheduled to start making recommendations on how to improve and coordinate care: "Appointed by President Barack Obama with the advice and consent of the Senate, Independent Payment Advisory Board members will determine new payment formulas under Medicare, subject to scrutiny from Congress and the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission. Although initially exempted from IPAB's decisions under a deal crafted with the White House and Senate leaders, hospitals are concerned about cuts coming from a variety of directions to healthcare, including this new board, [one health care system CEO] said." The Congressional Budget Office estimates the board will reduce Medicare spending by $28 billion through 2019 (Lubell, 6/28).

The Jackson (Mich.) Citizen Patriot on a provision that kicks in this week: "Those who frequent tanners will be among the first to face tax increases as a result of the health-care reform bill signed by President Obama in March. Included in the more than 2,000-page bill was a provision set to begin Thursday that applies a new 10 percent tax on indoor tanning" (Gautz, 6/28).

The Monroe (Mich.) Evening News: "The objections aren't necessarily to the tax itself - it'll mean about 50 cents added onto a typical $5 visit - but are more about the principle behind the tax. … Called an 'excise tax,' the fee is estimated - some say overestimated - to raise about $2.7 billion over the next 10 years" (Slat, 6/26).

Still, CongressDaily reports that there seems to be little public appetite anymore to repeal the health law. "House members of both parties are ready to go home and explain what the law does, for better or worse, and in some cases, discuss possible reforms to answer those calling for repeal. … Republicans say they plan to talk about health care when they go home for the Independence Day recess. 'I think educating the people on what the legislation does is the best thing we could do now, because they don't realize what a farce it is,' said Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Fla. 'That's one of our main jobs - deciphering, helping people understand what's going on up here.' … When it comes to constituent and party leadership cries for repeal of the law, rank-and-file Democrats and Republicans agreed full repeal was unlikely in the near future, and it was better to focus on provisions that could be reformed" (McCarthy, 6/28).

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