Family Businesses May Miss Out On Insurance Tax Credits; Doctors’ Angry With CongressThe Boston Globe explores a largely overlooked provision in the tax credits offered to small businesses by the new health law to help cover the costs of insuring workers. "[M]any Massachusetts small business owners who employ mostly family members are discovering fine print in the new law that disqualifies, or substantially limits, their tax credit. That language says family-owned businesses are not allowed to count employees who are also family members toward the credit, which is retroactive to January. The complicated new law allows a small business to claim a federal tax credit worth up to 35 percent of what the company spends on health insurance for its workers. To qualify, businesses must have fewer than the equivalent of 25 full-time employees, have average annual wages of $50,000 or less, and cover at least 50 percent of the cost of health care for their workers" (Lazar, 5/30).
Roll Call looks at doctors' reactions after Congress failed last week to pass a bill that would have suspended a cut in their Medicare reimbursements. "Physicians' groups are outraged that Congress left town without completing work on legislation that would forestall a 21 percent reduction in Medicare reimbursement rates that takes effect Tuesday. While the House on Friday approved legislation that delayed the cuts for 19 months, the Senate is not expected to take up the matter until after it returns from its break the week of June 7. 'We're pretty furious,' said Dr. Lori Heim, the president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. A number of fiscally conservative lawmakers, particularly in the Senate, have insisted that the costs of dealing with the 'doc fix' be offset with revenue raisers . Over the recess, Heim said her members intend to put pressure on lawmakers by calling their offices, sending letters to the editor and informing their patients about the effect of the cuts. ... Shawn Martin, the director of government relations for the American Osteopathic Association, said his members were 'pretty disappointed and pretty discouraged.' Martin said the AOA members were being encouraged to contact their Senators over the break and to attend town hall meetings" (Roth, 5/29).
In another story, Roll Call looks at the messages, including those on health care, that lawmakers will take back to their districts during the holiday break. "House and Senate Republicans go into the Memorial Day recess looking to make the case that Democrats have failed the American people on economic issues, national security and energy policy, while Democrats will use their recent string of legislative successes to try to build up their brand before November's elections. Republicans will also continue their assault on Democratic handling of spending, national security, energy and health care reform. 'We are going to be encouraging Members of Congress to remember the fallen and seize every opportunity to connect with their constituents on the need to get this economy moving again and the need to get federal spending under control,' Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) said. Democrats will also continue their efforts to turn public perception of their health care reform legislation. For instance, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) sent his Members home with recess materials stressing immediate effects of the law such as expanding coverage of adult children, children with pre-existing conditions and helping 'early retirees' - while making the broader the case that the reform 'works for middle-class Americans' (Kucinich and Stanton, 5/29).The New York Times reports on advances in telemedicine. "Spurred by health care trends and technological advances, telemedicine is growing into a mainstream industry. A fifth of Americans live in places where primary care physicians are scarce, according to government statistics. That need is converging with advances that include lower costs for video-conferencing equipment, more high-speed communications links by satellite, and greater ability to work securely and dependably over the Internet. The interactive telemedicine business has been growing by almost 10 percent annually, to more than $500 million in revenue in North America this year, according to Datamonitor, the market research firm. It is part of the $3.9 billion telemedicine category that includes monitoring devices in homes and hundreds of health care applications for smartphones" (Freudenheim, 5/28).
In a second story, the New York Times reports: "Could we cure diseases faster, or at least better control them, through crowd-sourcing? That is the premise behind social networking sites like CureTogether.com and PatientsLikeMe.com, which offer online communities for patients and collect members' health data for research purposes" (Singer, 5/28).
This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.