Provisions of Stimulus Package Studied for Health Care Implications
Some employers have raised concerns that a provision in the stimulus package that would provide federal subsidies to help cover the cost of health insurance premiums under COBRA will increase their costs, USA Today reports (Block/Appleby, USA Today, 2/20).
Under the provision, workers involuntarily terminated between Sept. 1, 2008, and Dec. 31, 2009, and whose annual incomes do not exceed $125,000 for individuals or $250,000 for families qualify for subsidies to cover 65% of the cost of health insurance premiums under COBRA for as long as nine months (California Healthline, 2/19).
According to USA Today, employers have raised concerns about "how higher COBRA enrollment will affect their insurance costs."
Tom Billet, a senior benefits consultant at Watson Wyatt, said that recently unemployed workers with medical problems are the most likely to take advantage of the subsidies, adding that those individuals are the most likely to seek health care.
However, Kathryn Bakich, senior vice president and head of health care compliance practice at Segal, said that she expects a number of healthy, recently unemployed workers to take advantage of the subsidies as well (USA Today, 2/20).
Some Republicans and health care industry groups have raised concerns that the $1.1 billion included in the stimulus package for research to compare the effectiveness of medications and medical devices will prompt government health care programs and private health insurers to make coverage decisions based on the results of the studies, CQ Today reports.
However, supporters maintain that comparative-effectiveness research would reduce health care costs and increase the quality of care and that such studies will not determine coverage decisions (Carey/Wayne, CQ Today, 2/19).
A provision dropped from the final version of the stimulus package under which hospitals could not have contacted former patients for charitable donations likely will prevent reductions in no-cost services for low-income individuals, according to the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy, CQ HealthBeat reports.
According to AHP CEO William McGinly, the provision likely would have prompted hospitals to reduce clinics, mammograms, childhood vaccinations and other services provided for low-income individuals (CQ HealthBeat, 2/19).
State officials nationwide have sought to determine the amount of funds for Medicaid and other programs that they can receive through the stimulus package, the Wall Street Journal reports.David Quam, director of federal relations for the National Governors Association, said that states will receive most of the funds for Medicaid and other programs through predetermined formulas and will not have to compete for those funds (Eaton, Wall Street Journal, 2/20) This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.