KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Abortion Not The Only Sticky Issue In Health Care Debate – News Outlets Examine Others

News coverage focuses on some of the sticky issues in health reform, including immigrants' coverage, long term care for the disabled, CHIP and insurance discounts for healthy habits.

"The debate over health care for illegal immigrants continues to percolate in Congress despite the Obama administration's efforts to put it to rest, with lawmakers in both houses also wrangling over how much coverage to provide for immigrants who have settled in the country legally," The New York Times reports. "Some Republicans favor excluding immigrants who have been legal permanent residents for less than five years, as well as all illegal immigrants. Democrats broadly agree that illegal immigrants should be excluded, but many want all legal permanent residents to be able to participate in proposed health insurance exchanges and receive subsidized coverage if they qualify" (Preston, 11/3).

The Wall Street Journal reports on a provision in the House bill that "would create a new federal long-term care benefit that would pay cash to people who become disabled. Premiums for the program would be automatically deducted from the paychecks of people who work for participating employers, but employees would have the choice to opt out. Payouts would go only to those who had paid premiums for at least five years." It is not yet clear whether the provision will be part of the Senate bill, but Democratic centrists such as Budget Committee Chairman Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota have warned the program could add to the deficit. Proponents say it would fund itself" (Mathews, 11/4).

The Charleston Gazette reports that the House bill "would dismantle CHIP in 2013 and move most of the children into commercial insurance plans" that "are not required to provide equal benefits." Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., already "squelched a similar proposal in the Senate health reform bill. He successfully amended the Senate bill to preserve CHIP until 2019. It would cost $15 billion more to serve the children with private insurance, according to the Congressional Budget Office" (Long, 11/3).

The Los Angeles Times reports that "[s]ome companies are charging lower insurance premiums to workers who meet benchmarks for healthy living. The Senate's healthcare overhaul legislation would expand the trend. But instead of cheering the proposal, some patient advocacy and health groups are worried that it could mean higher rates for less-fit Americans, possibly pricing them out of their employers' insurance plans" (Hook, 11/4).

Related KHN story: Just Rewards? Healthy Workers Might Get Bigger Insurance Breaks (Carey, 7/28).

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