KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Today’s OpEds: Taxing Health Plans, A Health Care ‘Loophole,’ NY Times On Medical Loss Ratio

The Gaming Begins The New York Times
Few Americans know what a "medical loss ratio" is, but a fierce struggle over how to calculate it under the new health care reform law will determine how much insurers must spend on patient care and how much they can retain for administration and profits. This is but one of many battles that will emerge as federal and state regulators develop regulations to implement reform (5/23).

So Much For The Little Guy Politico
The health care bill Obama just signed included a new tax of $8 billion a year on health insurers, beginning in 2014. This rises to $14.3 billion by 2018. The consensus among economists is that this tax would largely be passed on to consumers as higher premiums - roughly $1,000 more per family per year, according to some analysts. But a disproportionate burden of this new tax will be borne by small businesses and their employees. The tax hits a specific category of health insurance known as a 'fully insured' plan - the only kind most small businesses can afford (Sen. Sam Brownback, 5/24).

Plug The Health Care Loophole San Francisco Chronicle
Insurance oversight should be part of the health care picture. Putting the insurance commissioner in charge will ensure that increases are studied carefully and approved objectively, not by insurers alone (5/24).

London Fog Kaiser Health News
He's a socialist! He'll redistribute wealth! He wants to pull the plug on grandma! That's what Republicans said about President Barack Obama back in 2009, while he was trying to make health care reform bill law. Now they're saying it about Donald Berwick, the man Obama has appointed to help make health care reform work (Jonathan Cohn, 5/23).

A Practical Guide Forward For Progressives On Healthcare  Slate
Progressives need a strategy that combines jiujitsu with direct action, and that distinguishes between necessary compromises and sellouts. We have to reach out to congressional districts currently represented by ConservaDems or Republicans and win over some of the population that straddles the middle of the road. ... Progressives must move forward together. We still have the same goal: equitable, quality, universal, affordable healthcare (Ellen R. Shaffer and Judy Norsigian, 5/22) .

Protect Mental-Health Parity, But Scrutiny Is Inevitable The Boston Globe
In an era of double-digit increases in health care premiums, psychotherapists aren't the only health care providers who will face more stringent reviews. The trouble emerges when patient management tools become an excuse for insurers to game the system and lower costs at the expense of necessary treatment for patients. It would be wise for the [state's Group Insurance Commission] to stay vigilant and make sure it doesn't fall into this trap (5/24). 

VA Health Care: Glimpse Into Future Ithaca Journal
Veterans who have higher income, property and net-worth thresholds, applying for the same medical or prescription benefits, are subject to co-payment assessments. For example, a veteran with an annual income above $29,000, or a net worth above $250,000 may be assessed a co-payment. Isn't that wrong? Shouldn't all veterans who served in the same military be given free equal access to VA health care services - apart from their current financial status? What else is such a premise but that the VA has become a model welfare-state prototype (Allan Nixon, 5/24).

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