"Elective abortions will be prohibited and people with pre-existing conditions will be able to get comprehensive benefits without paying any more than healthy people, under new federal regulations for high-risk health insurance pools released ... by the Obama administration," according to Kaiser Health News. "The state-based pools provision is one of the high-profile features of the new health law taking effect this year. It allocates $5 billion to create plans to cover people who have been uninsured for at least six months and have a pre-existing health condition" (Galewitz, 7/29).
Politico: Abortion-rights groups were "caught completely off-guard" last month when Republicans and anti-abortion groups successfully mobilized to pressure on the Obama administration to keep states from allowing abortion coverage in the insurance pools they were setting up for people with pre-existing conditions. The administration responded within a day, assuring the groups that the high-risk insurance pools would be banned from covering elective abortions, "a position reaffirmed in a Health and Human Services regulation released on Thursday. ... Planned Parenthood and NARAL didn't publicly petition HHS until after the new ban was imposed. And it took sympathetic Democrats on the Hill a full 10 days to write a letter expressing disappointment with the HHS" (Kliff, 7/30).
Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office of Health Reform, wrote about the abortion policy on the White House blog Thursday, saying that "federal dollars would not be used to pay for abortion services except in the rarest of instances under a newly created health insurance program aimed at covering the sick and uninsured ...," Modern Healthcare reports, adding that the "pre-existing condition program will operate until 2014, when a new marketplace for health plans, called an exchange, will kick into effect" (DoBias, 7/29).
Meanwhile, in other news coverage of developments related to the new health law:
McKnight's Long-Term Care News: Senate Republicans "have introduced legislation that would repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) that is part of the healthcare reform law." Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said the board would have too much independence and power to make decisions about Medicare payments. Supporters of the board say it would have "the authority to make politically difficult decisions regarding healthcare costs to independent agents who would be less likely to be swayed by interest groups or the possibility of losing an election" (McKnight's, 7/30)
The Washington Post: A new analysis by the Commonwealth Fund finds that the law "Congress adopted this spring to reshape the nation's health-care system will be especially beneficial to women, because they traditionally have relied on health care more than men, faced more insurance problems and had greater difficulty paying medical bills" (Goldstein, 7/30).
The Wall Street Journal: The health overhaul included new requirements for businesses to file a 1099 form to the Internal Revenue Service each time it pays a supplier or service provider more than $600 in a year. The provision has drawn strong protests from business groups and Republicans and "House Democrats were forced to postpone a vote late Thursday on a GOP motion calling for repeal of the reporting requirement. That, in turn, delayed action on an $11 billion bill that expands federally-subsidized bonds for infrastructure projects. House lawmakers may add language to the infrastructure bill to weaken or repeal the IRS reporting regime, Democratic aides said." The provision would have raised $16 billion to help pay for the health law (Vaughan, 7/29).
The Hill: Advocates for children's issues "are pushing back this week" against new rules from the Department of Health and Human Services that will "allow private insurers to deny children trying to enroll in coverage outside of specified open enrollment periods." The new government rule came after some state insurance commissioners noted that plans might be pulling out of their states because of a provision in the law that required them to cover children with pre-existing conditions. "Many private insurers, however, said the provision would simply discourage parents from enrolling healthy children" and seek coverage only when a child was sick (Lillis, 7/29)
Los Angeles Times: And in California, as health care costs continue to soar, lawmakers struggle to take action to control insurance premium increases before adjourning Aug. 31. "August will be a key month as state officials try to forge a strategy to comply with the nation's new healthcare law. Among the law's far-flung provisions is a call for states to develop plans for reviewing 'unreasonable' increases in health insurance premiums."
"Under a provision of the new federal healthcare law that takes effect in September, insurers will have to devote at least 80% of their premiums to medical care. Schwarzenegger says the requirement will dramatically curb the insurance industry's ability to raise rates. Still, advocates of strict rate regulation believe that California needs additional protections. They say the only sure way is to force insurers to ask permission before raising premiums" (Helfand, 7/30).