Health Law Causing Ripples In Congress, Insurance Industry, Among Doctors
The Washington Post: "One of the most significant savings envisioned in the new health- care law - limiting payments to the private health plans that cover 11 million older Americans under Medicare - is, so far, bringing little of the turbulence that the insurance industry and many Republicans predicted. ... Early clues to the actual effects have now materialized, as elderly Americans may sign up for a health plan for 2011 during an enrollment period through the end of the year, and the warnings of swift, serious damage to the program are not borne out. Fewer health plans are available for the coming year, but the decrease is largely for reasons unrelated to the new law." But an AARP staffer points out that "A lot of these changes . . . don't kick in until next time around. We'll see what the impact is," according to the Post (Goldstein, 11/29).
Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reports that a "congressional committee is widening its investigation of bare-bones health-insurance policies to encompass potentially hundreds of plans offered by low-wage employers. What started as a probe into McDonald's Corp.'s insurance plan for store workers is expanding into broad scrutiny of 'mini-med' policies that could ensnare large mini-med carriers including Aetna Inc. and Cigna Corp. Congressional investigators are taking a close look at the two carriers and culling insurance policy data on a range of large and small employers, a Senate aide said." A Senate hearing is scheduled for tomorrow (Adamy, 11/30).
Also getting pushback is a provision affecting insurers' spending, according to Politico: "With pressure mounting from lobbyists for insurance agents, state regulators are scrambling to decide whether they want to apply for exemptions from the new federal rules stating how much insurers must spend on medical costs. The health care reform law requires insurers to spend at least 80 percent of premiums on medical costs in the individual market. Insurers who fail to meet the spending benchmark, known as the medical loss ratio, must issue rebates to subscribers" (Kliff, 11/30).
And the regulators have created a task force to determine whether provisions might harm insurance agents, Insurance Journal reports. "The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), which rejected pleas to protect brokers' commissions from a strict medical loss ratio required under the new health reform law, said its task force will 'address potential adverse impacts on the role of licensed health insurance agents and brokers resulting from the new federal health care reform law.' The task force will be chaired by NAIC Vice President and Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin M. McCarty" (11/29).
NPR: "Of all the scary scenarios predicted for the new health law this is among the scariest: A new survey of doctors predicts the rapid extinction of the private-practice physician. A survey of some 2,400 MDs from around the country found nearly three quarters said they plan to retire, work part-time, stop taking new patients, become an employee, or seek a non-clinical position in the next one to three years" (Rovner, 11/29).
Meanwhile, the National Journal reports that a "key byproduct of the new health care law is that the Department of Health and Human Services has become even more of a repository for data collection and analysis than it has been in the past. The health care sector has always relied on intricate and targeted studies, data collection, and deep analysis, but even so, large parts of the industry have gone unchecked" (DoBias, 11/29).