KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Some State Insurance Commissioners Push Back On Fed Premium Rate Reviews

Politico: Some state insurance commissioners are not happy with a proposal that would give the federal government the authority to centralize premium rate reviews of health insurance. The commissioners are organizing a renewed effort against the authority proposed by new legislation. "The Health Insurance Rate Authority Act, introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on March 4, would grant the HHS secretary the power to approve, deny or modify premium rate increases in states - 23 at the moment - where insurance commissioners do not already have that regulatory authority. Feinstein has crusaded for this cause since the omission of an amendment in the recently signed health care law." The bill wouldn't supersede the authority of insurance commissioners who already have authority to review rates. "Industry lobby America's Health Insurance Plans opposes centralizing rate review authority in the federal government as well, said spokesman Robert Zirkelbach." Some states - such as Illinois - don't have wide authority to review rates before they are instituted, but places like New York and Maine, which often give insurance regulators broad authority, wouldn't be affected at all by the bill (Park, 7/6).

The Associated Press: "For weeks, the White House has been touting the new law's initial benefit changes, even as Obama dares Republicans to make good on their threat to repeal his signature social policy achievement. Now, a clearer picture is starting to emerge from the patchwork of press releases. In 2014, government tax credits will help uninsured workers and their families pay premiums, and Medicaid will take in many more low-income people. Eventually, more than 30 million will gain coverage, sharply reducing the number of uninsured and putting the nation on a path to coverage for all citizens and legal immigrants." In the meantime, a host of changes will improve health coverage for many Americans, proponents say. They include expanded coverage for young adults, a subsidized high-risk insurance pool for the sick to get coverage and ending lifetime limits on coverage. Many of the changes will begin at the start of 2011 for most people with employer coverage (Alonso-Zaldivar, 7/6).

Kaiser Health News: The National Association of Insurance Commissioners continues its efforts to develop recommendations for health overhaul implementation regulations, including seeking input from insurers, medical providers and consumer groups. Now, a "subcommittee of NAIC has crafted a draft premium increase reporting form that includes nearly 50 questions. Some consumer groups --- and the American Medical Association – say the form needs beefing up. Insurers, meanwhile, say the form seeks too much information in places" (Appleby, 7/6).

Kaiser Health News, in a consumer column: Health plans may likely cover contraception at no cost as a result of the health overhaul. "Starting this fall, the health-care overhaul will require new health plans to begin providing a range of preventive health services at no cost to patients. Many people, including women's health advocates and some employer groups, think contraception should be one of the required free services." Many plans already cover contraceptives if given by prescription, but for others, the cost of such services is often cost-prohibitive. Copayments range "from $20 to $50 per month for birth control pills to several hundred dollars for a longer-acting method such as an intrauterine device. … At this point, it's unclear whether contraception will make the list of free covered preventive services" (Andrews, 7/6).

Chicago Tribune: "One of the most controversial issues related to health insurance has been rescission, which is action taken by insurers to retroactively cancel a customer's coverage even if a policy is kept current, citing omissions or errors in the application as grounds for breaking the contract. And Illinois has had among the highest rescission rates in the country. Starting in September, rescissions will no longer be allowed, except in the case of fraud. … The insurance industry says rescissions may affect no more than 7 percent of the American population with private insurance who buy individual policies, but that segment often is the most vulnerable. Individuals tend to pay the highest rates because they are not part of a large pool of health plan subscribers and, therefore, tend to have little leverage and pay higher rates" (Japsen, 7/6). 

Fort Worth Business Press: Small businesses will see changes kick-in, including those triggered by a small business tax credit. "The credit is available to small companies and tax-exempt organizations for the years of 2010 – 2013. ... The credit is phased out based on size and salaries of the company. Companies with 10 or fewer employees with an average wage of $25,000 will receive the highest credit of 35 percent of premiums paid. This credit increases to 50 percent in 2014." The Business Press also has a list of provisions and what dates they go into effect (Chester, 7/6).

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