Health Reform Law: Tax Credits May Boost Coverage; Rationing Still Hot Word

The Wall Street Journal: "The number of small businesses offering health insurance to workers is projected to increase sharply this year, recent data show, a shift that researchers attribute to a tax credit in the health law." The credit is expected to boost the percentage of businesses with 3 - 9 employees from 46 percent last year to 59 percent this year, researchers say. "Some small businesses are benefiting from portions of the law, which includes a tax credit beginning this year that covers as much as 35% of a company's insurance premiums." The report was prepared by Bernstein Research in New York. But, "[s]mall-business employers have been among the hardest-hit by double-digit premium increases, which health insurers blame in part on the cost of complying with new coverage mandates in the law." Small businesses have been slow to embrace the law, a frustration for Democrats (Adamy, 11/2).

The Fiscal Times reports on one cost-cutting idea: "Make people pay more for high-priced medical interventions that may not be necessary or simply don't deliver results. ... They’re giving it a shot in Oregon, a blue state where public employees and teachers next year will pay an extra $500 out of pocket when they get back surgery, an artificial knee, hip or shoulder replacement, or an endoscopy." Critics call it rationing (Goozner, 11/2).

CQ HealthBeat: Meanwhile, Medicare agency director Don Berwick responded to claims that the new law will result in rationing of care. In an interview published Monday by the Journal of the American Medical Association that rationing should be "the last thing" on the minds of health care providers. "Berwick says he is a 'committed optimist' when it comes to the future of health care" (Norman, 11/1). 

Berwick's agency, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is "looking for quality measures to use for a 'Physician Compare' website it will launch by Jan. 1, 2011, enabling consumers to research and compare physicians," Becker's Hospital Review reports.  "The 'Physician Compare' website, which is mandated by the healthcare reform law, will take after CMS' existing 'Hospital Compare' website, which allows viewers to research and compare hospitals against price and quality factors" (Oh, 11/1).

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