KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Health Law Coverage Bringing Changes To An Array Of Consumers

News outlets explore some of these issues, including new costs for people with "Cadillac" coverage, "narrow networks" of doctors and other health providers, new options for part-time workers and unexpected effects on smokers. In the meantime, exchanges are bracing for a busy December, and Covered California launches a hotline to help people having sign-up problems.

NBCNews: Large Employers Cite Obamacare 'Cadillac' Tax In Reducing Benefits
For 75 million Americans who get their insurance through large companies, the Affordable Care Act is a mixed bag.  Experts tell NBC News the new health care law is only slightly increasing premiums next year, but causing some companies with the most generous plans to reduce their employees’ benefits. ... The 40 percent excise tax -- often called the "Cadillac tax" --  is part of Obamacare and is levied on the most generous health plans. It's designed to bring down overall health costs by making companies and workers more cost-conscious (Reynolds and Myers, 11/25).

NPR: Health Exchanges Brace For A December Deluge
December could see a surge in demand for health insurance. "There is an avalanche coming," says Bryce Williams, managing director for exchange solutions at the benefits consulting firm Towers Watson. Williams says the firm knows from years of experience with open enrollment for Medicare patients, that the Monday after Thanksgiving is always the single busiest day for business (Rovner, 11/25).

Kaiser Health News: Narrow Networks’ Trigger Push-Back From State Officials 
Officials in at least a half dozen states are pushing back against health plans in the new insurance markets that limit choice of doctors and hospitals in a bid to control medical costs. The plans don't start offering coverage until January but they’re facing regulatory action, possible legislation, and in at least one case involving a high-profile children’s hospital, litigation. The pushback against "narrow" provider networks recalls the backlash against managed care and health maintenance organizations  in the 1990s (Hancock, 11/25).

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: Health Law May Offer Part-Time Workers Better Options
In January, part-time workers who have so-called "mini-med" health insurance plans with very limited benefits and annual caps on payments will begin to lose that coverage, which under the health care overhaul generally can’t be renewed after the beginning of the year.  Many experts say it's just as well, noting that part-timers likely will have better options in January (Andrews, 11/26).

Kaiser Health News: In California, Some Happy About Canceled Insurance Policies
Barbara Neff of Santa Monica is one of the roughly 1 million Californians who recently got word that their health insurance coverage would be expiring soon. The canceled plans sparked a political firestorm as people realized President Barack Obama’s promise -- 'If you like your plan, you can keep it' -- didn’t apply to everyone. But Neff, a 46-year-old self-employed writer, isn’t outraged. She’s relieved. Even though she makes too much money to receive a subsidy to buy insurance under the Affordable Care Act, the policy cancellation was good news for her. Neff says she's been stuck in a bad plan because treatment for a back problem years ago red-flagged her with a preexisting condition (O'Neill, 11/26).

Marketplace: Insurance Brokers: Obamacare Is Like ... (Pick A Metaphor)
California is running its own exchange. It’s going a lot smoother than the one at  So, [Craig] Gussin says that once people are done waiting to see him, he's able to help them see their way through the whole process, to get insurance and, if they qualify, a subsidy. In other states, agents tell a different story (Weissmann, 11/25).

California Healthline: Hotline Opened For Cancellation Issues
Covered California launches a hotline today to field calls related to policy cancellations. It was one of five measures the exchange board approved last week to ease the burden of some policy cancellations. Actions of the exchange board last week were overshadowed by its decision to forego the federal suggestion to extend coverage for individual, non-grandfathered insurance policies (Gorn, 11/25).

Fox News: Almost 80 Million With Employer Health Care Plan Could Have Coverage Canceled, Experts Predict 
Almost 80 million people with employer health plans could find their coverage canceled because they are not compliant with Obamacare, several experts predicted. Their losses would be in addition to the millions who found their individual coverage cancelled for the same reason (Angle, 11/26).

Fox News: Obamacare Slams Smokers With Sky-High Premium Costs, Could Backfire 
Obamacare may have backfired in its goal of making smoking so expensive that users quit, public health experts say, as sky-high insurance premiums force smokers to drop coverage altogether and lose smoking cessation programs along with it. "Tobacco surcharges are not proven to help tobacco users quit and there are major concerns that they will prevent people from getting health care coverage," the American Lung Association's Jennifer Singleterry said (La Jeunesse, 11/25).

NPR: Rep. Issa Takes Anti-Obamacare Campaign To The States
On Monday, Republicans held the second of at least four planned hearings that Rep. Darrell Issa of California, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, has said will focus on health insurance price increases he blames on the Affordable Care Act. The first hearing was in North Carolina on Friday, in the Charlotte suburb of Gastonia. ... Issa also called for a bipartisan approach to fixing the law, but this event was anything but bipartisan, starting with its title: Obamacare Implementation: Sticker Shock of Increased Premiums for Healthcare Coverage. Issa was joined by two Republican congressmen from North Carolina. There was also a list of five approved witnesses; all were critical of not just the rollout but the law itself (Gonyea, 11/25).

Meanwhile, Fiscal Times looks at another health overhaul issue --

The Fiscal Times: Obamacare Medical Device Tax Fight Not Over Yet 
Critics of the medical device tax warn that those innovations could be at risk, along with the industry's profit margins and thousands of jobs. The hotly debated 2.3 percent excise tax went into effect at the beginning of the year and is projected to raise about $29 billion over 10 years as a way to partially offset the costs of expanding health care coverage. The medical device industry has said that some 43,000 U.S. jobs could be lost because of the tax, based on a 2011 study financed by AdvaMed, an industry trade association – and companies will look to outsourcing to offset challenging market conditions (Medrano, 11/26). 

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.