KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Insurers Could Be Caught In Health Law’s Smoker Glitch

As the health overhaul's implementation marches on, the Obama administration has limited a provision relating to the cost of smokers' premiums and one news outlet looks at the effects on plans available to college students.

The Wall Street Cheat Sheet: Watch Out Insurers, This Obamacare Glitch May Be A Challenge
Obamacare regulations intended that older insurance enrollees could be charged up to three times more than younger people, while a smoker could be hit with a surcharge of up to 50 percent. At least that was how the system was supposed to work. A glitch in in the code running the federal computer systems that operate the health insurance exchanges could limit the penalties charged for most smokers, proportionally increasing the insurance costs for younger tobacco users. This error will only add to the problems bogging down the implementation of Obamacare as it will prevent the system from functioning as it was designed (Foley, 7/13).

The Wall Street Journal: A Cure For Student Health Woes?
Student health-insurance plans are getting better—and pricier. Just a few years ago, such plans were under fire for skimpy annual benefit limits that often topped out well below $100,000. Some plans didn't cover prescription drugs or treatment for mental-health or substance-abuse problems. Those days are gone. Under the Affordable Care Act, the minimum annual benefits limit will jump to $500,000 for the 2013-14 school year, up from $100,000 in 2012-13 (Blumenthal, 7/13).

In other health care news --

Marketplace: Affordable Care Act May Free Some From Working For Health Insurance
There are lots of predictions the Affordable Care Act will force employers to lay off employees, reduce hours, and cut seasonal positions. But a report released Monday from the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that up to nearly 1 million workers may voluntarily leave their jobs because of the new health care law. For empirical evidence of this, the authors point to something dramatic that happened in Tennessee back in 2005. Finances forced state officials to kick 170,000 people off the Medicaid program, which primarily serves low-income residents (Gorenstein, 7/15).

Reuters: U.S. Community Health Centers Eye Obamacare's Newly Insured
Community health centers expect to sign up millions of newly insured patients under President Barack Obama's health reform law, but U.S. budget cuts just as they need to beef up services may make it hard to keep the newcomers. ... with scant funding to improve their services and level of care, the centers are scrambling to ensure they can keep the new patients. The fear is that, over time, many of the insured patients will look for better service at private practices and hospitals, diverting a fresh source of much-needed income for the centers (Abutaleb, 7/14). 

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Health Insurers To Soon Refund Excess Non-Medical Premiums
Checks will be going out to more than 8,000 Minnesotans and a number of businesses in the coming weeks in a rebate program established as part of federal health care reform. The Affordable Care Act requires health insurance companies to spend at least 80 cents of every dollar collected in premiums on medical care, as opposed to marketing, commissions, administration and profits. Insurers that fall under the mark must return the difference to consumers and businesses in a check or premium rebate (Crosby 7/12).

NBC News: Breastfeeding Venture Aims To Milk Obamacare
An Obamacare rule that entitles moms to free breast pumps and breast-feeding services from their insurers is opening new business opportunities for breastfeeding supporters—and encouraging healthier babies and mothers at the same time. The venture's pitch to insurance companies and big firms that self-insure: Use their service to obtain electric breast pumps for new moms, and then to provide those moms with lactation consulting services that will support them in the goal of continuing to breastfeed their babies (Mangan, 7/14).

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