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Healthcare Reform To Benefit Small Businesses

From The Hill:

By Sam Baker – 06/21/11 10:00 AM ET

Healthcare reform can help reverse a drop in the number of businesses offering health benefits to their employees, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation says.

The share of employers that offer health insurance fell by 3.6 percentage points between 1999 and 2009, according to a study the foundation released Tuesday morning. It also says 61 percent of working-age Americans get insurance from their employer, down from 69 percent a decade ago.

The decline has been especially severe among small businesses and for families making between $44,000 and $88,000 per year, the report says. Continue reading

AMA Votes In Support of Individual Mandate

From The Hill:

By Sam Baker – 06/20/11  

The AMA’s House of Delegates voted 326-165 to support the law’s requirement that most people buy insurance. The coverage mandate is at the center of several lawsuits challenging the new law’s constitutionality.AMA President Cecil Wilson said the “overwhelming” vote shows that doctors still believe a mandate is necessary to achieving universal coverage.He emphasized that the AMA — the country’s largest trade association for doctors — backed the individual mandate before the debate over healthcare reform. Many members of the traditionally conservative group wanted to see that position reassessed at the AMA’s annual meeting this week in Chicago.
Continue reading

Is A Health Insurance Exchange In S.C. A Reality?

From Charleston City Paper:

Clay Middleton–June 22, 2011

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed last year by Congress requires all states to set up a health insurance exchange program. While South Carolina is one of 26 states to sue the federal government over this law, it does not prevent these states from working toward such an insurance exchange program. All states are required to have a health insurance exchange program by the end of 2012. If states fail to do this, the federal government will control their exchange programs.

I’m certain no state would want the federal government to have control over its insurance exchange program no more than the federal government would prefer to. Nevertheless, states have a responsibility to do their part to ensure that a fair, adequate, and open exchange exists. An insurance exchange program would allow people to purchase health insurance policies once it becomes required for everyone to have healthcare coverage in 2014. Individuals would be able to compare healthcare benefits and prices online, through a hotline, or in person by the organization that administers it.

If South Carolina decides to run its own exchange, the state Health Planning Committee, established by Gov. Nikki Haley, would appoint directors who could determine which kinds of policies would be offered, decide who is eligible, oversee federal subsidies, and perform other assigned tasks related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Continue reading

New Study Predicts Near-Term Stability

From The Hill:

By Julian Pecquet – 06/20/11  

Debate over how many people will lose their employer-sponsored insurance (ESI) coverage due to Democrats’ healthcare law continued to rage Monday as another consulting firm predicted a limited impact.

The new study by Avalere assessed several models and other analyses that have examined the issue and concluded that most of them anticipate a limited impact. The study comes two weeks after McKinsey estimated that 30 percent or more of employers can be expected to drop their coverage starting in 2014 as employees become eligible for subsidies to buy coverage on their own.

“Overall, our analysis suggests that the ESI market will be fairly stable after 2014 when key [healthcare law] coverage provisions go into effect,” the Avalere report states. 

Republicans had jumped on the McKinsey forecast to argue that the law violates President Obama’s pledge that people who like their insurance will be allowed to keep it, a powerful talking point going into the presidential campaign. Democrats shot backwith criticism of the study and are demanding that McKinsey explain its methodology.

The Avalere study did however caution that “while near-term changes in aggregate ESI rates are unlikely, longer term erosion — over 10 to 20 years — is possible,” especially if the state insurance exchanges called for in the law prove to be a better value than employer-sponsored coverage. Also, the report cautioned that low-wage workers, small businesses and those with early retirees in particular are likely to turn to the exchanges for their coverage.

New Health Care Ad Campaign

From Los Angeles Times:

By Noam Levey –June 20, 2011 

The Obama administration is kicking off a nationwide ad campaign urging seniors to take advantage of free preventive services such as cancer screenings made possible in Medicare by the new healthcare law.

The campaign — featuring television and radio ads in English and Spanish (see video below) — comes on the heels of a new report showing that less than one in six Medicare beneficiaries have taken advantage of the new benefit since President Obama signed the law last year. Continue reading

Contradicting Surveys Create Public Confusion

From The New York Times:

Douglas Holtz-Eakin headed a group of 105 economists opposed to the ACA

By — June 20, 2011

The debate over the effects of the federal health care law on employer-provided insurance has been intensifying in recent weeks, with controversial polls and consultants contradicting one another about whether employees will benefit or lose coverage by 2014.

Douglas Holtz-Eakin headed a group of 105 economists opposed to the Affordable Care Act.

After nearly two weeks of widespread queries and criticisms, McKinsey & Company, the management consulting firm, posted on Monday the questionnaire and methodology of an online survey it had released that was denounced by the White House and others for contending that nearly a third of employers would definitely or probably drop coverage for employees when provisions of the health care law took effect in 2014. Continue reading

Republicans Teeter In Stance On Medicare

From The New York Times:

Editorial Board– June 21, 2011

Leading Republicans — after proposing to gut Medicare — are still trying to pose as the program’s saviors. How cynical can they get?

At the recent Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire, Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota warned that health care reform will take $500 billion out of Medicare and harm “senior citizens who have the most to lose.” She failed to mention that the budget resolution approved by House Republicans, with her vote, would retain virtually all of the same cuts in payments to health care providers and to oversubsidized private Medicare Advantage plans.

While they don’t say it a lot, even the Republicans recognize that the cuts are necessary to bring Medicare spending under control.

At the debate, Rick Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania, raised the old — and discredited — bugaboo that the Democratic reforms would lead to “rationing of care from the top down.” His target was a new advisory board that is designed to insulate spending decisions from the lobbying that distorts Congressional decisions. Continue reading

Doctors Fear Lowered Provider Rates After S.C. Cuts

By Matt Kennard–June 20 2011 19:10

Doctors treating the poor in the US are braced for significant reductions to their services amid increased pressure from both the Obama administration and Republicans for deep cuts in health spending.

Twenty-nine Republican governors have called for greater flexibility in how states administer Medicaid programmes for the poor, a move which coincides with the Obama administration’s withdrawal of stimulus funds used to pay for treatment.

Nearly 49m people in the US, or one in six Americans, were covered by Medicaid in 2009. The figure is thought to be higher today.

The federal government increased its subsidies to the states under the stimulus programme, spending $2.68 for every dollar a state spent on Medicaid, nearly twice as much as before the stimulus.

The withdrawal of the stimulus money will leave a huge financial shortfall in the programme, which the states do not have the funds to fill. Continue reading

Shoddy McKinsey Survey Draws Democrats’ Wrath

From Talking Points Memo:

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)

Brian Beutler| June 20, 2011, 6:08PM

Democratic members of Congress who pressed the consulting giant McKinsey & Company to open the books on its disputed health care study are piling on, now that the firm’s released its survey materials.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), who took a leading role in the pressure campaign, just lambasted the firm for inadequately addressing the controversy. Baucus also provided new details about a private meeting the firm’s representatives had with members of his own staff about the survey.

“McKinsey has long held a reputation for fair-minded analysis, so it is particularly disappointing that this study does not live up to that reputation — or even come close. McKinsey made clear and definitive predictions, and, in the face of tough questions, simply changed their story” said Baucus. “This report is filled with cherry-picked facts and slanted questions – it did not provide employers with enough information for them to make honest choices and fair evaluations. Rather than correct the major deficiencies in their report, McKinsey has chosen to again stand by their faulty analysis and misguided conclusions.” Continue reading

Baucus Demands Explanation Of Controversial HCR Survey

From Talking points Memo:

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)

Brian Beutler | June 16, 2011, 2:50PM

McKinsey & Co’s public relations fiasco continued Thursday, as one of the most powerful senators on Capitol Hill issued a public call for the influential consulting firm to come clean about a questionable study it published on the impact of the new health care reform law.

In an accompanying letter to the firm’s managing director, Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) reveals that McKinsey has agreed to meet with members of his staff to discuss the survey — and includes 13 questions on methodology, which he “expect[s McKinsey] to be able to answer completely.”

“Honest public discourse requires a standard level of transparency — one McKinsey simply has not met,” Baucus said in a prepared statement. “The conclusions McKinsey reached differ sharply from results of other reputable, transparent research on the subject. McKinsey’s findings also counter what actually happened in Massachusetts when similar policies increased employer-sponsored health insurance. We all want the most accurate information and the ability to evaluate its integrity, which is why McKinsey should answer these basic questions.” Continue reading