KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Employer-Provided Health Insurance To Remain Dominant Under Health Law

News outlets report on employer-provided health insurance and suggest that the overall number of Americans who are insured through their workplace is unlikely to change substantially under the health law.

The Wall Street Journal: "The share of Americans who get health coverage through their jobs has been declining gradually for years, dropping to 63.3% of working-age adults in 2008." But in "the next decade, the overall number of Americans with workplace health benefits isn't likely to change much, government analysts suggest." The forecast, however, "masks a lot of expected churn. Some small firms, particularly those with predominantly low-income employees, will likely drop health insurance. Other companies may see more workers joining their coverage rolls, largely because of the law's new requirement for Americans to have health plans"  (Mathews, 5/17).

The Columbus Dispatch reports that because the penalty for businesses with more than 50 workers who do not offer health insurance is only $2000 a year per worker, some "worry that employers would rather pay the fine than pay the insurance costs. ... Health-care experts say it's unlikely that most employers will dump health insurance to save money, but they acknowledge that no one really knows what will happen when that part of the law takes effect in 2014" (Hoholik, 5/16).

Baltimore Business Journal: "The number of small businesses in Maryland providing health care coverage to their employees fell by 7 percent in 2009, and some state health care leaders don't think a federal tax break available to those that offer benefits will reverse the trend" (Graham, 5/14). 

The Boston Globe reports on the "growing practice of requiring therapists to undergo lengthy and repeated phone interviews about their patients' progress before the insurance company will approve further treatment. According to patients and therapists interviewed by the Globe, the reviews have established tougher criteria for additional visits and have been burdensome and intimidating. That has sometimes led to curtailed treatment and protracted appeals."

"Dolores Mitchell, executive director of the Group Insurance Commission, said her agency tightened its rules because mental health insurance rates in some of its employees' plans jumped 22 percent in the past year. ... Advocates for the mentally ill believe the restrictions may violate the 2008 federal mental health parity law, which requires most employers that offer mental health coverage to provide the same level of services as for other medical care" (Lazar, 5/17).

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