KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

States Find Flexibility With Essential Benefits

Stateline offers an explanation of how the Obama administration's approach to the health law's essential benefits package will work. In California, a push to extend health coverage to people with preexisting medical conditions has led to more than 6,000 patients gaining insurance. Also, some new health regulations take effect. And, in Wisconsin, a decision last month by Gov. Scott Walker to halt work on a state health exchange until after the Supreme Court rules on the measure's consitutionality has triggered industry concerns.

Stateline: Health Law Explained: The States Gain New Flexibility In Setting Policies
[O]n December 16, the Obama administration announced its intention to let states determine their own "essential benefits" for plans sold within their boundaries—rather than setting one national benefit standard. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said the approach would "protect consumers and give states flexibility … to meet their unique needs." In this explainer, Stateline examines how the new approach will work: (McKillop and Vestal, 1/3). 

Los Angeles Times: California Adds Patients To Health Insurance Rolls
Despite a slow start, California's push to extend health coverage to those with preexisting medical conditions — a three-year stopgap effort until federal healthcare reform fully kicks in — has enrolled more than 6,000 patients (Gorman, 1/3).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: State's Decision To Halt Health Exchanges Worries Insurers
A recent decision by Gov. Scott Walker could give the federal government greater influence over the state's health insurance market - and that worries some in the industry. Walker announced late last month that the state would halt work on the online marketplaces, or exchanges, required under federal health care reform until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of the law….One worry is that health insurers would face stricter regulations from the federal government than from the state Office of Free Market Health Care (Boulton, 1/1).

KQED/The California Report: New Year Brings New Health Care Laws
Some new laws and regulations taking effect in 2012 affect health care in the Golden State. Insurers who offer individual and small group coverage must spend at least 80 percent of premiums on actual medical care. And legislators will continue laying the groundwork for the health insurance marketplace mandated by federal health care reform (Varney, 1/2).

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