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Monday, July 19, 2010

Health Care Reform Looking Healthier Everyday

Health care reform update, again from today's Times:

"Most of the major elements of the reform law don’t go into effect until 2014, but some important benefits start this year. Administration officials had two early successes: pressuring insurance companies to immediately end their indefensible practice of rescinding coverage after a policyholder becomes sick and to immediately start covering children with pre-existing conditions. Officials also persuaded insurers and a handful of employers to allow parents to keep their dependent children on family policies until age 26.

A few hundred thousand Medicare beneficiaries who have reached the “doughnut hole” in Medicare drug coverage have gotten or will soon get small, $250 checks to help pay their drug costs; millions more will get checks when they reach the gap later this year. The administration has already proposed language for contracts that will be signed with the manufacturers of brand-name drugs to provide 50 percent discounts next year to patients who hit the gap. A small blizzard of regulations, each requiring painstaking drafting, has been issued, including new rules issued Wednesday requiring insurers to eliminate cost-sharing for recommended preventive care, such as screening tests and vaccinations.

Not everything has moved smoothly. The new law requires insurers to spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars on medical care. But agreeing on a definition of care (versus administrative and other costs) has proved difficult. A plan to open temporary high-risk pools for people unable to obtain insurance because of pre-existing conditions appears to be running behind schedule.

On the employer front, the administration has notified nearly four million small businesses that they might be eligible for a tax credit to help defray the cost of insuring their workers. And it is accepting applications from employers for a separate program to help defray the costs of insuring early retirees."

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