Health Law's New Patient-Centered Outcomes Board Takes Shape; More Insurance Waiver Requests Expected

The Washington Post reports on a new entity: the Board of Governors of the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute. "If you're not familiar with the board, you're not alone. Created by the health-care overhaul law, it's one of the newest and least known panels in government. But the work of its 21 members, if successful, could increase the public's knowledge of medical treatments for everything from attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder to cancer. And it could dramatically change how you discuss treatments with your doctor when the law is fully implemented in 2014." 

Tasked with helping patients, doctors and purchasers make informed decisions on quality and health care effectiveness, the board will "direct the institute's researchers to examine mounds of comparative effective research undertaken by schools, hospitals and medical companies to study the benefits and detriments of medical treatments" (Fears, 10/15).

Elsewhere, spending rules on insurance to be issued by the Obama administration have already prompted a wave of insurers to ask for exemptions and threatened that some insurers "may abandon some markets," state insurance commissioners are warning, according to Bloomberg. "The rule, part of the new health law, mandates that UnitedHealth Group Inc., WellPoint Inc. and rivals spend at least 80 percent of customer premiums on medical care, or return the difference in rebates. Insurers that sell to the 14 million people who buy their own coverage may be hurt because those policies cost more to administer, the commissioners said in a letter to U.S. health secretary Kathleen Sebelius." The waiver request from insurers asks the administration to delay the rule in some markets until 2014. Last month, the administration similarly waived rules for plans covering 1 million part-time workers "who won't be eligible for subsidized coverage for four years" (Nussbaum and Armstrong, 10/14).

Related, earlier KHN story: Are 'Mini-Med' Plan Waivers A Good Idea? (Villegas, 10/8)

The Wall Street Journal Health Blog: "Almost half of private-company CEOs and CTOs surveyed by PricewaterhouseCoopers say health-care overhaul legislation may affect their business financially, while another 31% say it's too soon to assess the impact." The survey polled 224 CEOs and CTOs with an average of $257 million in annual sales (Hobson, 10/14).

Politico reports that the Obama administration has spent $3 million on TV advertisements this month to discuss the benefits of health reform — "three times what was spent by pro-reform candidates and groups but almost nothing compared to the $21 million spent on anti-reform ads. The Department of Health and Human Services insists that the ads are not political and that the spending is in line with what the agency has done in the past to advise seniors about the open enrollment period for Medicare Advantage and prescription drug coverage plans, which begins Nov. 15." The ads do tout specific benefits of the law, however, including closure of the Medicare prescription drug "doughnut hole" (Kliff, 10/15).

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