KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Taxes, Medicare Cuts And Insurance Provisions In Reform Bills Spark Worry

Aspects of Congress proposals to overhaul the health care system are being scrutinized.

The Washington Post reports on seniors "remaining wary:" "Proposals to squeeze more than $500 billion out of the growth of Medicare over the next decade have fueled fears that his effort to expand coverage to millions of younger, uninsured Americans will damage elder care. … From the raw numbers, it appears seniors are the net losers under bills approved by three House committees last week. The legislation trims $563 billion out of Medicare's growth rate over the next 10 years while pumping in about $320 billion. … But three retiree groups and several independent policy analysts say most of the proposed savings affect providers, rather than beneficiaries, and have the potential to improve quality over the long term" (Connolly, 8/9).

Practical considerations to protect consumers are being lost in the debate, The Associated Press reports: "Experts say the bills before Congress include significant consumer protections that would end denial or cancellation of coverage for medical reasons, from high cholesterol to cancer. … If President Barack Obama's effort to remake the health care system implodes, chances are slim that such protections could be enacted on their own. What consumer groups call discrimination by insurance companies, the industry sees as self-defense against people who put off getting coverage until they're seriously ill" (Alonso-Zaldivar, 8/9).

The Wall Street Journal on taxing high-value insurance plans: "Besides potentially generating tens of billions of dollar, proponents argue the move could slow the steep rise in health spending. They say generous insurance plans can encourage people to spend more freely on medical care. … But the proposal being weighed by the Senate Finance Committee would tax health plans that cost much less, setting the bar perhaps as low as $25,000 a year for a family plan. … But if lawmakers don't allow the threshold to be adjusted annually to reflect annual price increases, the proposed tax would eventually hit a much larger number of people" (Fuhrmans, 8/10).

Employers hope a Senate proposal will include co-operatives instead of a public option for public health insurance will, Business Insurance reports. "Employers also hope the Finance Committee bill, unlike the House bill, will include an individual mandate and not an employer mandate" (Wojcik, 8/10).

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