KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Feds OK Mich. Request To Reduce Premium Costs For State’s Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan

Other news reports related to health law implementation include the latest on a push by the Department of Health and Human Services for state insurance exchange partnerships, speculation about the measure's essential benefits rule and efforts on Capitol Hill to block the law's funding.  

Modern Healthcare:  Feds OK Cut In Premium Costs For Michigan Program
The federal government approved the state of Michigan's request for a 10 percent reduction in monthly premiums for its health insurance program for the uninsured who have pre-existing conditions. The decrease will begin in October, according to a Health Insurance Program for Michigan statement. The state is among 27 in the U.S. that runs its own pre-existing-condition insurance plan. These programs act as bridges until changes in federal law take effect in 2014 for those denied health insurance coverage. The changes won't affect the Michigan program's policy of accepting applicants no matter their health status (Selvam, 9/18).

Politico Pro: Essential Benefits Rule: When, And How Specific?
HSS is about to get a key report it will need to move ahead on one of the most important — and politically sensitive — health reform regulations it has to write: the rule spelling out what "essential benefits" health plans will have to cover. But there's some speculation in health policy circles that HHS might not release the rule — at least in final form — until after the 2012 elections. And even if the department decides to put out the rule sooner, officials will still have to make a series of critical decisions on how specific it should be about what diagnoses, services and products must be covered. Within weeks, HHS is supposed to get a report from the Institute of Medicine that will recommend the methods HHS should use for deciding the requirements for a benefit package (Feder and Nocera, 9/19).

Kaiser Health News: HHS Pushes State Partnerships For Insurance Exchanges
The federal government is worried that dozens of states may opt out of running these insurance marketplaces and leave that job for Washington (Werber Serafini, 9/19).

The Hill: States Head To DC With Questions About Health Insurance Exchanges
Leaders from the Health and Human Services Department will discuss exchanges with representatives from 46 states, Washington, D.C., and the territories. HHS has been tight-lipped about the two-day, closed-door meeting. But there's plenty to talk about. Many states want more information about the federal fallback exchange that HHS can set up in states that don't establish their own, and HHS is eager to sell reluctant states on a partnership model. And even states that are eager to implement health care reform want to see regulations on essential health benefits. States will have a much better idea of how to build their exchanges once HHS releases those rules (Baker, 9/19).

The Pueblo Chieftain/Denver Post: Salaries For Colorado Health Exchanges Questioned
Proposed salaries for potential workers for a state health benefits exchange are drawing scrutiny because the average annual pay for employees would exceed $125,000. "We need to be fiscally responsible," Michael Fallon, one of the members a state board working on setting up the exchanges, said during a meeting of the group Friday. The exchanges would give individuals and groups the ability to purchase health insurance at discounts larger risk pools like businesses have (9/16).

CQ HealthBeat: Senate Appropriators Reject Amendments To Block Health Care Funding
Senate Democratic appropriators on Thursday rebuffed a GOP attempt to attach language to the annual financial services spending bill that would block implementation of a portion of the 2010 health care law. In a 16-14 party-line vote, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved an amended draft bill totaling $44.6 billion that would fund the Treasury Department, federal courts, the District of Columbia and several independent agencies in fiscal 2012. The committee rejected, 14-16, an amendment by Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., that would prohibit funds in the bill allocated for the IRS from being used to implement part of the health care law, including the mandate that individuals have health insurance starting in 2014 (Carter, 9/16).

CQ HealthBeat: CMS Offers Health Law Grants For Care Outside Nursing Homes
There are some health policy goals that are bipartisan, and one of them is to expand opportunities for Medicaid enrollees to get long-term care in their homes or communities rather than in nursing homes. This week, federal officials announced a grant program to pump $3 billion more into state Medicaid programs to develop those alternatives, which are championed by advocates for the disabled and are seen as a way to lower Medicaid spending eventually despite the upfront costs. Cindy Mann, the top federal Medicaid official, announced the availability of the grants through the new "State Balancing Incentive Payments Program" created under the health care law (Reichard, 9/16).

Meanwhile, in other news, the health care compact concept is a novel approach being eyed by some governors and state legislators who oppose the federal health law.

Kaiser Health News: Some States Seeking Health Care Compact
State governors and legislators opposed to the federal health care law are eyeing a novel approach to escape its provisions: joining an 'interstate compact' that would replace federal programs — including Medicare and Medicaid — with block grants to the states (Gugliotta, 9/18).

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