As Reform Hangs In Balance, Policy Benefits Continue To Be Discussed
News outlets report on policy issues the health care reform bills would address.
NPR reports on the immediate effects of the proposed health care bill, and that Congressional Democrats are focusing on those benefits in messages to constituents. "The White House is trying to shift the conversation away from the messy legislative process - which Republicans are keying on - and instead focus on what the health care overhaul would do for families and businesses." Obama mentioned several of these items, "including a guarantee that children can get health insurance - even if they have a pre-existing illness - and a measure that would let young adults stay on their parents' policies until they turn 26."
Democrats are also touting tax credits to small businesses that offer health insurance to their workers. $250 to seniors who fall into the Medicare "doughnut hole," and "it would impose a variety of popular, fast-acting restrictions on the insurance industry: No more lifetime limits on coverage. And no more canceling a policy just because someone gets sick."
But insurance costs won't necessarily see immediate downturns, according to NPR. "In fact, in the short run, costs could go up," (Horsley, 3/17).
Meanwhile, a report by the Associated Press says that claims by President Obama that health care premiums will lower under his plan is not entirely true. "Premiums are likely to keep going up even if the health care bill passes, experts say. If cost controls work as advertised, annual increases would level off with time. But don't look for a rollback. Instead, the main reason premiums would be more affordable is that new government tax credits would help millions of people who can't afford the cost now."
The report suggests that the Obama administration has not been totally clear about the caveats included with the savings it has been touting. For example, "the premium reduction of 14 percent to 20 percent that Obama often cites would apply only to a portion of the people buying coverage on their own - those who want to keep the skimpier kinds of policies available today" (Alonso-Zaldivar, 3/17).
The Wall Street Journal: An amendment that would have banned patent challenges from generic drug companies and brand-name drug companies, has been dropped from the proposed health care legislation. Proponents of a ban say such settlements "prevent U.S. consumers from getting access to cheaper, generic drugs. The FTC says the deals are anticompetitive and banning them could save the government about $30 billion over 10 years." However, "generic and industry members say the deals are pro-competitive and allow generic drugs to reach the market more quickly." The amendment was dropped because of concern that it would be allowed under parliamentary rules in Congress that apply to the process they will use to vote on the bill (Favole, 3/18).
Los Angeles Times: Another provision included in the bill is being eagerly awaited for by Medicare patients. "In 1997 Congress set a hard cap on Medicare payments for physical therapy at clinics, nursing homes and doctors' offices -- anywhere outside a hospital. Congress installed the cap after learning that outpatient therapy costs were soaring at twice the growth of other Medicare services." Originally the cap exempted certain illnesses such as multiple sclerosis and joint replacement, but the exemption ran out on Jan. 1, meaning "the hard cap -- $1,860 in payments per year, no exceptions -- took effect." Though the proposed legislation that would address the issue is still tied up in the legislative process, the paper reports that "Congress seems likely to act on the issue" (Helling, 3/18).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.