KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Health Reform’s Early Retiree Reinsurance Program Accepting Applications; Other Overhaul Initiatives Get Attention

The Hill: HHS announced Tuesday that it "has begun accepting applications for the early retiree reinsurance program created by the new health law. The law sets aside $5 billion that businesses, unions and state and local governments can use to cover the healthcare costs of their retirees - and their spouses and dependents - who are older than 55 but don't yet qualify for Medicare." Some are worried that money for that program won't last through 2014, when other parts of the law take effect. "[A] new report by the Employee Benefit Research Institute finds that if the subsidy were drawn down for all early retirees and their dependents, half the money would be exhausted in the first year of the program" (Pecquet, 6/29).

The Ventura (Calif.) County Star says a spokesperson for Rep. Lois Capps, D-Calif., noted that  "In 1988, 66 percent of large companies (200 or more workers) provided retirees with healthcare coverage compared with 29 percent in 2009" (Gregory, 6/29).

The (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal reports on the Community Living Assistance Services and Support Act the "federal government's first attempt at a public long-term care insurance program. The act is designed to help adults with severe physical or cognitive limitations to receive money - $50 to $75 a day - to pay for services that will help them get by. Supporters say it will enable families to afford caregivers (in Delaware, rates range from $20 to $22 an hour) and increase the number of people who buy long-term care insurance." People must pay into the program for at least five years, which starts in 2012, before benefits can begin (Ratnayake, 6/30).

In the meantime, CongressDaily reports, an "area of health reform that has received little attention is getting a new look as deficits mount: what happens when someone receives larger health insurance subsidies than they are eligible for because they made too much money." The subsidy amount will be based on income, marital status and number of children who make up to 400 percent of poverty. "With enrollment beginning in October 2013, eligibility would be determined by 2012 reported income. In January 2014 when the credits take effect, an individual or family could have had much-changed economic circumstances in the intervening years." A family could "have to pay back the entire amount received during the year" if their income goes up (Cohn, 6/30).

In a separate story, CongressDaily reports that America's Health Insurance Plans, an insurance trade group, "took to Capitol Hill Tuesday to push the benefits of managed Medicaid health plans and highlight why disease management and coordinated-care programs should be included as medical costs under new ratios required by the healthcare law." The health law requires insurers to spend 85 percent of the premiums they collect on medical care, and officials are working to determine exactly what constitutes "medical care."

AHIP head Karen Ignagni said "These are the tools that we use to promote care and improve quality" (McCarthy, 6/30).

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