Health Law and Policy Update
Voters reject Amendment 63
Colorado Amendment 63 failed in Tuesday's election as voters saw through proponents' faulty arguments trying to tie the measure to national health reform.
Colorado is the only state so far to reject at the ballot an initiative that purported to reject national health care reform. The language of Amendment 63 was unique and had implications for the state of Colorado that went far beyond proposals voted on in other states. CCLP worked hard to help voters understand why Amendment 63 was the wrong choice for our state including authoring the key policy document explaining the implications for Colorado of Amendment 63.
Voters' rejection of Amendment 63 is a welcome development for health care consumer advocates, who now will be able to turn more of their attention to positive implementation of health reform.
Voters approved measures similar to Amendment 63 in Arizona and Oklahoma.
Other headlines of the week
Health reform accounts for less than 5 percent of rate increases
Acknowledging health insurance premiums continue to rise, Colorado's Division of Insurance (DOI) this week announced that "federal health reforms have contributed from zero to a maximum of 5 percent of those increases. It's not the primary cause for increasing rates."
That is critical factual information; as health insurance premiums continue to rise, some are blaming increases on the Affordable Care Act.
DOI's statement is based on insurance company rate filings filed with the DOI so far this fall. According to Insurance Commissioner Marcy Morrison, several factors drive rate increases including greater utilization and an aging population. The DOI has published two fact sheets to help the public understand rate increases:
- Frequently Asked Questions on Health Rate Reviews in Colorado
- Factors Affecting Health Insurance Premiums in 2010
Tax credit in health reform enables more small firms to offer coverage
More small businesses are offering health coverage to their employees, taking advantage of a tax credit in the Affordable Care Act that covers as much as 35 percent of a company's insurance premiums, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Citing a report by Bernstein Research, the Journal said 59 percent of companies with three to nine workers are offering insurance this year, up from 46 percent in 2009.
An estimated 82,400 small businesses in Colorado will qualify for some portion of the tax credit, according to research Families USA released in July.
Advancing the debate
Wendell Potter: Reform repeal unlikely
Former insurance industry executive Wendell Potter has a reality check in the latest edition of Newsweek for politicians who pledged to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Potter argues insurance companies would resist those efforts, particularly any attempt to eliminate health reform's individual mandate.
"Despite all the attacks on "Obamacare," the new law props up the employer-based system that insurers and large corporations benefit from so greatly. It also guarantees that private insurers will get billions of dollars in new revenue," Potter writes.
NAIC working on model laws to implement reform
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) is developing model state laws to implement key provisions of the Affordable Care Act such as the prohibition on rescissions, coverage of young adults to age 26, and elimination of lifetime and annual caps on benefits. Sabrina Corlette, an NAIC consumer representative, reports on some of the ideas under consideration in a blog post for the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families.
Colorado Public Radio seeks opinions about its health coverage
Colorado Public Radio is asking professionals, executives and volunteers in the health field to participate in a survey to evaluate its health and health care coverage. The survey is confidential and will take 13-15 minutes to complete. It's online at www.CPRHealthSurvey.org.
New Medicare rules improve access to preventive care
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) this week announced it has issued new rules to improve access to preventive care and reduce out-of-pocket costs for Medicare beneficiaries. The rules create an annual wellness benefit for traditional fee-for-service beneficiaries, issue bonus payments for preventive services provided by primary care physicians, create a similar bonus payment for general surgeons serving in health professional shortage areas and cut costs for services Medicare recipients receive in hospital outpatient departments. Those cost reductions will take place in 2011 and were required by the Affordable Care Act.
One of the new rules waives beneficiary cost-sharing for most Medicare-covered preventive services, such as screening mammograms and screening colonoscopies. That means that, for most preventive services, beneficiaries will not have to satisfy a Part B deductible before Medicare will pay. In addition, for the services, beneficiaries will not have to pay their co-payment (typically 20 percent of the Medicare payment amount) for the physician's or the facility's portion of the service.
"We hope that by eliminating these out-of-pocket costs, more beneficiaries will make full use of their Medicare preventive benefits," said CMS Director Donald Berwick. "We know that prevention, early detection and early treatment of diseases can promote better outcomes for patients and lower long-term health spending."
Also, this week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced a new report that shows average savings to Medicare beneficiaries of $3,500 over the next ten years. The amount of savings goes up dramatically for Medicare beneficiaries with chronic health conditions or high prescription drug costs.
Town hall meetings offer a chance to understand health reform
Boomers Leading Change in Health is putting on town hall meetings through the end of the month to help participants understand what health reform means for them. The meetings are free, and anyone may attend. The schedule:
- Nov. 8 - 6 p.m. at The Center, 1301 E. Colfax Ave.
- Nov. 9 - 6 p.m. at Sisters of Color, 2895 W. 8th Ave.
- Nov 11 - 6 p.m. at Denver Indian Center, 4407 Morrison Road
- Nov. 16 - 6 p.m. at Robert E. Loup Jewish Community Center, 350 S. Dahlia St.
- Nov. 20 - 11:30 a.m. at Disciple Mission Church of Denver, 8390 E. Hampden St.
- Nov. 20 - 3:30 p.m. at Center for African American Health, 3601 Martin Luther King Blvd.
HHS sponsors Spanish-language forum on health reform
A community forum about the Affordable Care Act and the Spanish-language health care information website cuidadodesalud.gov is scheduled for 2 to 3 p.m. Monday, Nov. 8 in Denver. The forum is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Spanish-language forum will include a demonstration of tools available on the site. The location is the Community Room of the Denver Police Department, District One, 1311 W. 46th Ave., the corner of 46th Avenue and Lipan Street. Anyone may attend.
Health Care Director
Health Care Attorney
Released Nov. 5, 2010