Officials Continue Health Overhaul Sparring, News Outlets Examine New Law’s Potential Improvements For Women
Republicans are continuing to pressure officials at the Department of Health and Human Services on health reform as the focus shifts to implementation of the health care overhaul and the first deadlines are approaching, Politico reports. "HHS has until Friday to post a full list of all the decision-making authority granted to the secretary in the health law. A spokeswoman for the agency said only, 'stay tuned to www.healthreform.gov tomorrow.'" Republicans including Sens. Chuck Grassley, Michael Enzi and Judd Gregg sent a letter to HHS telling officials there they expect the department to comply. "The letter is a sign that Republicans plan to keep up their scrutiny of the agency as it implements the complex overhaul plan. In dozens of instances, the law outlined broad plans and left the details to HHS, a key aspect of Republicans' opposition to the plan" (Haberkorn, 4/22).
Kansas Health Institute News Service: HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, speaking to a group of health reporters and editors said the success of the overhaul will depend on how the first phases of the law are implemented. "'Sept. 23 is the magic date for many of the changes,' Sebelius said. 'The early deliverables to seniors and families is a critical component to having some buy-in' from the public on the merits of the reforms. Sebelius and her agency will play central roles in defining and rolling out those 'immediate deliverables,' including provisions that start closing the so-called donut hole on Medicare drug benefits and allow adult children to remain on their parents' private health insurance policies. The agency also is working with states on the early step of expanding high-risk pools across the nation to cover people who otherwise couldn't find health insurance because of their medical histories" (Shields, 4/22).
CNN Money: "As the insurance industry prepares to adjust to reform," two major companies say that the most immediate of the mandated changes could cause premiums rates to increase fast. "'The headline for everyone is that costs will be more. Cost will definitely go up,' said Mark Bertolini, president of Aetna, which covers more than 19 million individuals under its plans. However, Bertolini declined to say specifically how much premiums would increase other than to say the biggest impact on them would happen in 2014 when the health law is fully implemented." Others, including Cigna's vice president of public policy said if all other costs were unchanged by legislation, one measure would increase premiums by 1 percent to 1.5 percent (Kavilanz, 4/23).
NPR: One goal of the new law "that hasn't received much attention: to improve women's experiences in the health insurance world. For some women, insurance policies cost far more than those for men their age; some women simply can't find an insurer to cover them. And, even for women who have insurance, sometimes it just doesn't cover certain scenarios, like pregnancy." Health insurance exchanges in 2014 will offer individual policies that cover pregnancy coverage - something rare now. Such changes could bump up costs at least in the short term, however, said Gail Wilensky, who headed Medicare during George H. W. Bush's presidency (Silberner, 4/23).
Detroit Free Press: The health law may also make it easier for new moms to breastfeed because of one specific provision. "The legislation directs employers with more than 50 workers to provide a private, on-site nursing space and 'reasonable' unpaid time to pump milk. Advocates are urging the U.S. Department of Labor to quickly issue guidelines. Most health experts and working moms agree that the legislation not only will provide health benefits, but also boost a company's bottom line. One out of every three new mothers gives up breast-feeding less than seven weeks after returning to work because of significant barriers, such as lack of privacy, inflexible schedules or lack of company support, according to a 2007 survey by the nonprofit New Jersey-based National Women's Health Resource Center" (Montemurri, 4/23).