KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

How The Health Legislation Will Affect Consumers

The Los Angeles Times explores some key questions: Will insurers continue to raise premiums; when will the Medicare "doughnut hole" close; and, "how do I sign up for my new insurance?" In answer to the last one, the Times writes, "Although there are some provisions that take effect this year, such as bans on lifetime limits and the denial of coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, the part of the bill that provides new insurance options does not take effect until 2014" (Geiger, 3/28).

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution breaks the health law's impact down by consumer type, such as uninsured patients, people with employer-based coverage, and people with Medicare. "Every American will be affected in some way by the coming changes to the nation's health care system. Some people will have greater access to care at more affordable prices. Some will retain their current coverage but keep a wary eye on how their health insurance premiums change" (Brister, 3/28).

There are more in-depth reports on specific provisions affecting consumers, including some apparently-unintended holes in the legislation.

The Wall Street Journal: "The program for home-bound elderly, called Community Living Assistance Services and Supports, or [CLASS], would help keep older people in their homes longer and reduce federal nursing-home expenses, the bill's congressional sponsors said." But, analysts say it could ultimately cost far more than predicts. A predicted 10 million people who use the program will pay $123 a month in premiums but would not begin receiving benefits for at least five years, giving the program a $70 billion head start. Then, the cost of benefits could overshadow the incoming premiums (McKinnon, 3/29).

Kaiser Health News/Los Angeles Times: "Now that the health overhaul has passed Congress, Democratic lawmakers are hoping to highlight its most immediate benefits. Chief among them: a plan to help millions of elderly and disabled Medicare beneficiaries pay for their medications by gradually eliminating a drug-coverage gap commonly known as the 'doughnut hole.'" A combination of drug industry discounts and government subsidies would fill the coverage gap, which draws thousands of dollars from many elderly patients pockets each year (Weaver, 3/29).

The New York Times: "Just days after President Obama signed the new health care law, insurance companies are already arguing that, at least for now, they do not have to provide one of the benefits that the president calls a centerpiece of the law: coverage for certain children with pre-existing conditions. ... Insurers agree that if they provide insurance for a child, they must cover pre-existing conditions. But, they say, the law does not require them to write insurance for the child and it does not guarantee the 'availability of coverage' for all until 2014" (Pear, 3/28).

Related, earlier KHN story: Coverage For Sick Kids Under Question In New Law (Galewitz and Villegas, 3/24)

The Washington Post: "A little-noticed provision of the health legislation has rescued federal support for a controversial form of sex education: teaching youths to remain virgins until marriage." The legislation directs $250 million to abstinence education over five years (Stein, 3/27).

In a separate story on the impact of the health law on small businesses, the Wall Street Journal "talked to members of two national organizations with opposing views on the legislation: James Gelfand, senior manager of health policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and David Borris, a member of the national executive committee of Main Street Alliance" (Needleman, 3/29).

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