KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Health Law Regs Moving Slowly In Advance Of Election

CQ HealthBeat reports that the Office of Management and Budget has no updates on its website for at least a half-dozen pending regulations related to insurance exchanges and essential benefits.

CQ HealthBeat: No Sign Of Key Regs At OMB, Heightening Uncertainty Over Health Care Law Implementation
It's widely assumed that the Obama administration is holding up action on major regulations in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 6 election — a tactic that may avoid political headaches but also is delaying efforts to implement the health law. States and insurers are awaiting the issuance of at least a half-dozen regulations before they can make key design decisions on insurance exchanges and prepare health plan offerings to be sold in the new marketplaces. The rules they are waiting for are nowhere to be seen on the White House Office of Management and Budget website that tracks which regulations federal budget officials are reviewing (Reichard, 10/16).

Meanwhile, the Congressional Research Service reports on the health law's tax effects, while Marketplace explores how the health insurance industry continues to prosper -

Modern Healthcare: Lawmakers Must Weigh ACA Tax Effects: Report
The healthcare reform law's provisions to increase federal revenue through taxes on high-income workers are among the many tax and spending policies lawmakers are set to face next year, congressional researchers said in a report (PDF). As Congress addresses the so-called fiscal cliff—the term used to describe the various tax provisions set to expire coupled with a host of spending policies set to change—they must evaluate the benefits of reducing the nation's federal deficit against the implications that those policy choices will have on America's economic recovery, wrote analysts at the Congressional Research Service. A legislative branch agency within in the Library of Congress, the CRS provides policy and legal analysis exclusively for Congress. The researchers cited the Congressional Budget Office's conclusion that allowing current law fiscal policies to take effect could hurt short-term economic growth, but hasten long-term growth (Zigmond, 10/16).

Marketplace: Health Insurance Industry Healthier Than Predicted
So far, the fiscal impact of President Obama's health care reform is not nearly as bad as originally forecast by Wall Street types. Parts of the Affordable Care Act have already taken effect, like the rule requiring insurers spend a certain percentage of their profits on medical costs -- some analysts had predicted that requirement would hurt the bottom line (Tyler, 10/17).

In other news -

Bloomberg: Humana Gains As Obama Health-Law Bonuses Spur Improvement
Humana Inc. will get 5 percent more in Medicare payments and a "five-star" rating for one of its health plans under a U.S. program that may be helping to improve care for the elderly, according to an analysis that quickly spurred Republican criticism. The program provides bonuses to health insurers who beef up Medicare Advantage plans by limiting how many members are re- admitted to the hospital after a discharge, increasing the amount of preventative care and getting acceptable ratings on patient satisfaction surveys, among other criteria. Insurers are rated from one star, the lowest, to five stars, the highest (Wayne, 10/16).

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