KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

As Health Law Kicks In, So Do Grants, Subsidies And Worries For Insurance Brokers

Federal spending on health care is proof that the industry can look forward to continuing growth, according to the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch. "Along with the $2.7 billion increase that the state received to pay for Medicaid, at least $655 million in grants from stimulus funds and the health-reform law recently has been awarded. Among the grants to state government are $3 million for a home-visiting program to keep children healthy and safe, $152 million to make insurance more affordable to people with existing medical conditions and $1 million to help consumers trying to buy insurance" (Hoholik, 10/17).

"Thousands of middle-class, working families can expect to get billions in tax breaks in Tennessee and Georgia under health care reform, though some other - mainly more affluent - people will face higher taxes under the sweeping law," the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports." In Tennessee, 664,100 people will be eligible for new federal tax cuts in 2014 that aim to reduce the cost of private health insurance, according to a report from Families USA, a Washington, D.C.-based consumer group that supported health care reform" (Bregel, 10/18).

The Hill obtained the daily schedules of Peter Orszag, President Obama's former budget director, as the law was being written, which "reveal that he and key White House aides regularly met to discuss healthcare starting in January 2009, within days of Obama entering office. Orszag also took meetings with insurance executives and health experts as the White House made health reform its top legislative priority after enacting the $814 billion stimulus" (Alarkon, 10/17).

Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel: Meanwhile, "Two changes could dramatically alter the landscape for insurance agents selling health-care policies. First, starting in January 2011, insurers must spend at least 80 percent of the premium on actual health-care costs, not administrative costs - and that could dramatically reduce the commissions given to insurance agents. ... In 2014, when health-care exchanges are supposed to be up and running, consumers will be able to look at Websites and figure out the best plan for themselves" (Shrieves, 10/17).

Business Insurance: Key details about which health plans will be "granfathered" under the overhaul have been clarified. "Prior interim regulations listed six changes which, if any one were made, would result in the forfeiture of grandfathered status. Those changes include imposing or raising coinsurance requirements, increasing a deductible by an amount that exceeds medical inflation plus 15 percentage points, and increasing employee premium contributions by more than five percentage points.The new guidance makes clear that the six changes are the only changes that would result in a loss of grandfathered status" (Geisel, 10/18).

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