Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report Examines Recent Health Reform Developments
Summaries of several developments related to health care reform appear below.
Blue Cross Blue and Shield of North Carolina: BCBS currently is working on a public message campaign opposing a public health insurance option as part of health care reform, the Washington Post's "Daily Dose" reports. The insurer has hired the public affairs firm Capstrat to make three 30-second videos that illustrate a health care system in which patients wait months for appointments and cannot choose their own physicians. BCBS spokesperson Lew Borman said the videos, which will appear on what the company calls an "informational Web site," still are being drafted. He said, "We believe an unchecked government-run plan would lower payment to doctors and hospitals, forcing them to attempt to charge private insurers more and thus further eliminate private insurers' ability to compete against the government" (Connolly, "Daily Dose," Washington Post, 5/18).
Congressional Budget Office: CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf recently told members of the Senate Finance Committee that he expects fewer U.S. residents would switch from their private insurance to a public plan than suggested by a Lewin Group study, CongressDaily reports. Lewin estimated that about 70% of people in private employer-sponsored or individual insurance plans would switch to a public plan because public plan premiums would be 30% lower than those of private insurance. However, Elmendorf said that CBO has determined premiums for a public plan would not be that low, resulting in fewer people switching (Edney, CongressDaily, 5/20).
- Insurer probe: Health Care for America Now on Tuesday sent a letter requesting that the U.S. Department of Justice investigate the practices of major insurance companies, the AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. The letter states, "A lack of antitrust enforcement has enabled insurers to acquire dominant positions in almost every metropolitan market," adding that the "failure to attack anti-competitive practices has enhanced the dominant positions of these insurers." HCAN also asked that DOJ investigate industry practices that infringe on the physician-patient relationship, including contractual "gag clauses" that prevent physicians from referring patients to other insurance plans and "most favored option" provisions that inhibit physicians from giving a lower price to another plan (Alonso-Zaldivar, AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune, 5/20).
- Lobbyists: Aides to Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) on Monday met privately with about 25 top Democratic lobbyists, asking them to refrain from sharing their opinions on health care reform or risk being left out of negotiations on an overhaul, Roll Call reports. People familiar with the meeting said that it was friendly, but that aides to Baucus made it clear that lobbyists and their clients should hold off on advertisements, press releases and Web sites and "let the process work", according to Roll Call. One attendee said that Russell Sullivan, the committee's top staffer, and Jon Selib, Baucus' chief of staff, "made a very strong appeal for people to remain constructive" (Palmer, Roll Call, 5/20).
- Vermont: Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) on Monday announced that he will introduce two bills next week that would change how health care is delivered, the Burlington Free Press reports. One bill would expand on the Vermont chronic disease management program Blueprint for Health by promoting a nationwide collaborative approach to health care that would stress prevention, health education and coordinated care for chronic conditions. The second bill would establish an alternative, voluntary payment system under Medicare that would permit physicians to create accountable care groups that measure health outcomes and receive reimbursement based on the value -- rather than the volume -- of the care they provide (Remsen, Burlington Free Press, 5/19).
- Wyden: A coalition of Oregon chapters of national labor unions have scheduled an advertising campaign against Sen. Ron Wyden's (D-Ore.) proposal to pay for a health care overhaul by capping the tax exemption on employer-sponsored health benefits, CQ Today reports (Armstrong, CQ Today, 5/19). The coalition will spend $60,000 to air radio ads in Portland, Ore., and Eugene, Ore. The campaign also will include direct mail, phone calls and a new Web site called "Stop Wyden's Health Tax" (Smith, "Ben Smith," Politico, 5/19).