Health Policy Briefs
Compiled by Benita M. Dodd
So much for individual responsibility: Merrill Matthews, resident scholar at the Institute for Policy Innovation, has two articles that should be of concern to every American about to be walloped by the mandates in the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act:
- One, in Forbes magazine, notes that employers have been sent “an IRS warning that any efforts to avoid the ObamaCare mandate to provide coverage or pay a penalty (or is it a tax?) will not go unpunished.” The notice refers to “proposed regulations providing guidance under section 4980H of the Internal Revenue Code (Code) with respect to the shared responsibility for employers regarding employee health coverage.” Oh, and by the way, the Taxman will need more than 2,000 helpers just to ensure compliance with ObamaCare. You can read more here: http://tinyurl.com/b2rmgkh.
- Matthews’ other op-ed, in The Wall Street Journal, focuses on the imminent individual premium increases following ObamaCare’s mandates of guaranteed issue and community rating. Guaranteed issue requires insurers to cover everyone and incentivizes people to forgo buying a policy until they get sick and need coverage (and then drop the policy after they get well). Community rating means insurers cannot charge more based on serious medical conditions. “How do we know these requirements will have such a negative impact on premiums? Eight states – New Jersey, New York, Maine, New Hampshire, Washington, Kentucky, Vermont and Massachusetts – enacted guaranteed issue and community rating in the mid-1990s and wrecked their individual (i.e., non-group) health-insurance markets.” As for the states that will be hardest hit? Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Wyoming and Virginia can expect increases somewhere between 65-100 percent. Another 18 states, including Texas and Michigan, could see rates rise 35 percent to 65 percent.
More mandates: Kaiser Health News reports that under ObamaCare,individual and small-group health plans sold both on the state-based health insurance exchanges and on the private market must cover pediatric dental services beginning in 2014. Plans that have grandfathered status under the law and health plans offered by large companies are not required to offer them. (Eighty-nine percent of firms with 200 or more workers offered dental benefits in 2012, compared with 53 percent of smaller firms, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s annual survey of employer health plans.)
Hoping “no” means “maybe”: The White House says it will give states more time to comply with the new health care law after finding that many states “lag” in setting up online exchanges, where millions of Americans were expected to buy subsidized private health insurance, The New York Times reports. Under the law, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was supposed to determine “on or before Jan. 1, 2013,” whether states were prepared to operate the exchanges. Now she plans to waive or extend the deadline to February 15 for any states that express interest in creating their own exchanges or regulating insurance sold through a federal exchange. Already, 26 states told the Obama administration that they will not be spending the time, energy and effort to build a state exchange, when ultimately the federal government would have to approve virtually every decision that was made. Sebelius has given “conditional approval” to 17 states that want to run their own insurance exchanges. In Georgia, Governor Nathan Deal put it eloquently: “We have no interest in spending our tax dollars on an exchange that is state-based in name only. I would support a free market-based approach that could serve as a useful tool for Georgia’s small businesses, but federal guidelines forbid that. Instead, restrictions on what the exchanges can and can’t offer render meaningless the suggestion that Georgia could tailor an exchange that best fits the unique needs of its population.”
The dastardly profit motive: Pharmaceutical companies are increasingly teaming up with some of the nation’s top universities, recruiting campus scientists as partners and offering schools multimillion-dollar deals to work on experimental drugs in development, the Associated Press reports. There’s nothing new about these partnerships, but apparently now the concern is “the two sides are often joining forces as equals.” AP says the drug makers’ “aggressive pursuit of university research has drawn the ire of academic purists” who question whether the partnerships put profits ahead of, or on equal footing with, science for science’s sake.
Hairless today, hair tomorrow! One of the top nine biotech trends of 2012 listed in Genetic Engineering and Biology News is the year’s amazing (and sometimes useless?) research. Did you know for example, that Japanese researchers found a super-active form of Vitamin D enhances the ability of stem cells to induce hair growth, perhaps striking a blow against male baldness? German investigators said they discovered a gene mutation linked to Internet addiction; researchers from two City University of New York schools found that women can differentiate between colors better, while men show more sensitivity to detail and rapidly moving objects. And a Yale University study revealed that professors favored a male job candidate over a female with identical qualifications for a fictitious science lab manager position. Women profs were just as likely as men to favor the male. Read more of the top nine stories here: http://tinyurl.com/byz8uxf. (They do get more serious!)
Quotes of Note
“[T]he more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer … [taking] away from before their eyes the greatest of all inducements to industry, frugality, and sobriety, by giving them a dependence of somewhat else than a careful accumulation during youth and health for support in age and sickness.” – Benjamin Franklin
“I have the body of an 18-year-old. I keep it in the fridge.” – Spike Milligan