KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Obama To Propose Changes In Health Law’s Cadillac Tax In His Budget, Aide Says

Jason Furman, the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, writes in the New England Journal of Medicine that the change would reduce the effect of the tax in some regions of the country. Also in health law news, reports about new grants to study the link between social issues and health, concerns about how the insurance industry is reacting to transitions caused by Obamacare, the effects on small businesses and enrollment numbers in Colorado.

Bloomberg: Obama Aims For More Targeted Cadillac Tax In Budget Proposal
President Barack Obama will propose reducing the bite of the unpopular "Cadillac tax" on high-cost health insurance plans in the budget he releases next week, in a bid to preserve a key element of the Affordable Care Act. Jason Furman, the White House Council of Economic Advisers chairman, wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine that the president’s plan would reflect regional differences in the cost of health care, reducing the tax’s bite where care is particularly expensive. (Greiling Keane, 2/3)

Reuters: Obama Budget To Adjust Health Insurance 'Cadillac Tax': Adviser
President Barack Obama will propose tailoring the controversial "Cadillac tax" on expensive private health insurance plans to reflect regional differences when he releases his 2017 budget plan next week, a senior White House adviser said in an article released on Wednesday. Obama's proposal would reduce the bite of the unpopular tax by raising the threshold where it takes effect in areas where healthcare is particularly expensive, according to the article in the New England Journal of Medicine co-written by Jason Furman, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. (Walsh, 2/3)

USA Today: Feds To Study Health Benefits Of Screening And Linking To Social Services
The Obama administration is working to build evidence supporting increased federal and state spending on anti-violence, social service and other programs to improve life in poor neighborhoods and limit the growth in health care costs. The move comes despite more limited reports done by outside groups and is designed to create a paper trail that makes the need for and efficacy of the programs for Medicare and Medicaid recipients indisputable by showing the cost savings. In the next step in the Affordable Care Act, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will spend nearly $160 million in grants to community groups, health care providers or other public or private entities that will screen patients for unmet social needs and link them with services that help with housing, hunger, interpersonal violence and other social ills. (O'Donnell, 2/3)

Kaiser Health News: Licking Wounds, Insurers Accelerate Moves To Limit Health-Law Enrollment
Stung by losses under the federal health law, major insurers are seeking to sharply limit how policies are sold to individuals in ways that consumer advocates say seem to discriminate against the sickest and could hold down future enrollment. In recent days Anthem, Aetna and Cigna, all among the top five health insurers, told brokers they will stop paying them sales commissions to sign up most customers who qualify for new coverage outside the normal enrollment period, according to the companies and broker documents. (Hancock, 2/4)

The Charlotte Observer: NC Insurance Commissioner Blames ACA For Industry Woes
N.C. Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin this week became the latest public official to warn of the harms wreaked by the Affordable Care Act, saying the federal insurance law has destabilized the state’s insurance market and now threatens to leave some residents without options for health insurance. Goodwin expressed his concerns in a letter sent Tuesday to Sylvia Burwell, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as a follow-up to a personal conversation he had with the Obama administration official in November. Goodwin, a Democrat up for re-election this year, warned that the ACA is driving up insurance costs, reducing consumer options and generating unsustainable financial losses for the insurers, with the potential risk that insurers will withdraw from the state altogether. (Murawski, 3/3)

The Associated Press: Health Care Law Makes Tax Season Tougher For Small Companies
As more requirements of the health care law take effect, income tax filing season becomes more complex for small businesses. Companies required to offer health insurance have new forms to complete providing details of their coverage. Owners whose payrolls have hovered around the threshold where insurance is mandatory need to be sure their coverage — if they offered it last year — was sufficient to avoid penalties. (Rosenberg, 2/3)

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