Sunday, May 17, 2009

Weekend update / Miscellany

  • On Thursday, the AP reported that House Democrats are developing a health care reform plan that would create universal coverage.

    The plan by the House Energy and Commerce Committee would build on the current system in which employers, government and individuals share responsibility for health insurance.

    But it would make major changes: Individuals and employers would face new obligations to help pay for coverage. Insurers would operate under stricter consumer protections. And the government would take added responsibilities for setting insurance rules and providing financial help to low- and middle-income families. * * *

    The House plan also includes a government insurance program to compete with private companies. It would be financed by premium payments, not taxpayer dollars. * * *

    Individuals would be required to get coverage, either through an employer or government plan, or on their own. Employers would be required to provide coverage or pay the government a percentage of payroll.

    Individual subsidies for health insurance would be offered on a sliding scale to those earning up to four times the federal poverty level, or $88,200 for a family of four, according to the document.

    The AP article also states that "Momentum for a health care overhaul built this week after Obama obtained a pledge from medical providers to help find $2 trillion in savings over 10 years to help pay for his plan." However, according to a New York Times article also published on Thursday,

    Health care leaders who attended the ["pledge"] meeting [with the President] have a different interpretation. They say they agreed to slow health spending in a more gradual way and did not pledge specific year-by-year cuts.

    “There’s been a lot of misunderstanding that has caused a lot of consternation among our members,” said Richard J. Umbdenstock, the president of the American Hospital Association. “I’ve spent the better part of the last three days trying to deal with it.” * * *

    The Washington office of the American Hospital Association sent a bulletin to its state and local affiliates to “clarify several points” about the White House meeting.

    In the bulletin, Richard J. Pollack, the executive vice president of the hospital association, said: “The A.H.A. did not commit to support the ‘Obama health plan’ or budget. No such reform plan exists at this time.”

    Moreover, Mr. Pollack wrote, “The groups did not support reducing the rate of health spending by 1.5 percentage points annually.”

    He and other health care executives said they had agreed to squeeze health spending so the annual rate of growth would eventually be 1.5 percentage points lower.
  • Government HIT News reported that
    A high-level committee set up to advise the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology pledged Friday to concentrate on forming health IT standards that support the practical daily work of physicians and hospitals.

      Members of the Health IT Standards Committee, in its first meeting since being created by the economic stimulus law, said it would create three work groups to pursue that agenda in the areas of clinical operations, clinical quality, and privacy and security.

  • President Obama appointed New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Frieden to head the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This appointment does not require Senate confirmation. Modern Healthcare reports that the appointment has received plaudits from public health advocacy groups.

  • The IRS announced on Friday the maximum health savings account contribution amounts and high deductible health plan minimum deductibles and out-of-pocket ceilings for 2010 according to Business Insurance.

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