Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tuesday Tidbits

  • The White House press office announced today that "the President will direct the Office of Personnel Management to work with the Office of Health Reform, the National Economic Council, the Department of Labor, and the Office of Management and Budget to examine successful employer wellness and prevention practices that lower health care costs and improve employees’ health and to explore the feasibility of developing such a plan for federal employees and their workplaces." OPM already has created the healthierfeds program.

  • The Medicare Program trustees announced today that the Medicare Part A trust fund will be exhausted in 2017, two years earlier than the 2019 projection made last year. Medicare Part A funds hospital benefits. According to a summary of that report,
    The Medicare Report shows that the [Medicare Part A / Hospital Insurance or HI] Trust Fund could be brought into actuarial balance over the next 75 years by changes equivalent to an immediate 134 percent increase in the payroll tax (from a rate of 2.9 percent to 6.78 percent), or an immediate 53 percent reduction in program outlays, or some combination of the two. Larger changes would be required to make the program solvent beyond the 75-year horizon.

    The projected exhaustion of the HI Trust Fund within the next eight years is an urgent concern. Congressional action will be necessary to ensure uninterrupted provision of HI services to beneficiaries. Correcting the financial imbalance for the HI Trust Fund—even in the short range alone—will require substantial changes to program income and/or expenditures.

    Medicare Part B which funds medical benefits and Part D which funds prescription drug benefits are not at risk because those programs can tap into general tax revenues.

  • The Senate Finance Committee held a round table discussion today on financing comprehensive health care reform. Business Insurance reports that experts testifying at the hearing encouraged the Committee to consider capping the tax exclusion on employer furnished health benefits as well as increasing taxes on alcoholic and carbonated beverages and fatty and salty foods.

  • The Politico reports that on Thursday the Senate Finance Committee will consider a Committee white paper on proposals for expanding health care coverage in the U.S.
    The paper refers to the requirement to buy insurance not as a mandate but as “a personal responsibility” to own health coverage.

    Obama opposed an individual mandate during the campaign — and frequently criticized his primary election opponent, Hillary Rodham Clinton, for proposing one. But since taking office, he has declined to rule out any specific proposals.

    In addition, the committee will weigh three options for a public health insurance plan that would allow all Americans to buy coverage through the government for the first time.

    But the committee might also reject the public plan all together, and rely instead on a “reformed and well regulated private market” to expand access to health insurance — a move that could help a sweeping health overhaul draw some Republican support.

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