KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Studies Gauge Health Law’s Impact On Consumer Savings, Rx Drug Coverage

The Commonwealth Fund concluded that consumers saved $1.5 billion in 2011 as a result of a provision that limits how much insurers can spend on expenses not related to medical care. Meanwhile, Avalere Health found that drug coverage plans offered on health exchanges will vary by state.

Los Angeles Times: 'Obamacare' Saves Consumers Nearly $1.5 Billion
Consumers saved nearly $1.5 billion in 2011 as a result of rules in President Obama's healthcare law that limit what insurance companies can spend on expenses unrelated to medical care, including profit, a new analysis shows. Much of those savings — an estimated $1.1 billion — came in rebates to consumers required because insurers had exceeded the required limits. The study by the New York-based Commonwealth Fund also suggests that the Affordable Care Act forced insurers to become more efficient by limiting their administrative expenses, a key goal of the 2010 law (Levey, 12/5).

Modern Healthcare: Reform Law Aiding Insurance Consumers: Report
A new report estimated insurance consumers benefited from $1.5 billion in either rebates or reduced costs last year, due to requirements of the healthcare overhaul. But insurers warned that money could have funded anti-fraud and quality-improvement programs. Research supported by the Commonwealth Fund, which backed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, concluded that the law's medical loss-ratio requirements implemented in 2011 provided big savings—mainly in the individual insurance market. Individual market policyholders had "substantially reduced premiums" due to the law's requirement that insurers spend at least 80% of premium dollars on direct healthcare or quality-improvement activities, or else pay a rebate to their customers, according to the report (Daly, 12/5).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Study: Prescription Drug Coverage Under Obama Health Care Law Could Vary Markedly By State
A new study says basic prescription drug coverage could vary dramatically from state to state under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. That's because states get to set benefits for private health plans that will be offered starting in 2014 through new insurance exchanges (12/4).

The Hill: Analysis Finds Big State-By-State Swings In Prescription Coverage
President Obama's signature healthcare law requires insurance plans to cover a range of prescription drugs, but the number of drugs covered will vary widely from state to state, according to a new analysis from Avalere Health. The Affordable Care Act requires plans to cover a set of "essential health benefits," including prescription drugs. To prevent benefit mandates from driving up premiums, the Health and Human Services Department has said it will let states fill in most of the details about their essential-benefits packages (Baker, 12/4).

In other coverage related to the health overhaul -

MPR: Federal Health Care Law
The federal health care overhaul is here to stay after surviving an epic legal battle at the United States Supreme Court and the contentious 2012 elections. But that does not mean the massive law will remain intact, as enacted. Congress may be tempted to raid some of the Affordable Care Act's funding as part of a deal to avert the collection of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts known as the "fiscal cliff." The court battles are hardly over; legal challenges involving issues the Supreme Court did not address when it upheld the law in June, 2012, are already underway. But for the most part, key provisions, such as the individual mandate requiring most Americans to obtain health insurance, will take effect January 1, 2014 (Stawicki, 12/4).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.