Morning Health

MEDICAL LOSS RATIO: Despite a recent letter from Democratic lawmakers outlining congressional intent, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners says state regulators have yet to decide how they'll define which taxes healthcare plans will be able to subtract from premiums when calculating their medical loss ratios.

"It's something we will look at — basically we see this as a comment from the Hill as to what they see as the intent of that, but we will have to work through that," Brian Webb, manager of health policy and legislation for the NAIC, told reporters Thursday evening. NAIC is also "interested in what [the Department of Health and Human Services's] read of the legislation is," Webb added. The final word, though, "will be a decision of the commissioners."

Read earlier story with link to letter: http://bit.ly/cwlHJB

Phase-in? UBS Investment Research analysts think it's "highly probable" a phased-in medical loss ratio — perhaps starting at 65 percent in 2011 — will end up being allowed in the individual market to avoid market disruptions. Health Insurance and Managed Care Committee Chair Sandy Praeger tells reporters NAIC has had internal discussions about a phase-in but no communication with HHS so far.

FOOD SAFETY: Bipartisan group of six unveils compromise manager's package in the Senate. Read the substitute: http://bit.ly/bwdpXP

CBO weighs in: http://bit.ly/cSxLUW

An amendment by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) exempting small farmers with adjusted gross income under $500,000 a year was left out, but Tester vows to press on.

Tester spokesman Aaron Murphy's statement: "Sen. Tester is continuing to work with members of the Committee to make sure small-scale, local producers are not burdened by expensive new regulations aimed at large-scale corporate producers. He is optimistic about reaching an agreement on his amendment when the bill reaches the floor."


NEW LAWSUIT: Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) joins Goldwater Institute lawsuit challenging healthcare reform's Independent Payment Advisory Board, which recommends payment adjustments in the Medicare program.

Read the press release: http://bit.ly/baXf82


HEALTHCARE REFORM COST CONTROLS: Three new briefs funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation look at how healthcare reform will affect healthcare costs.

Cost-containment provisions could help slow rising costs, improve quality: http://bit.ly/d5cadF

Interstate insurance sales provision provides greater consumer protections than past proposals: http://bit.ly/duJMza

Malpractice reform could significantly cut healthcare costs: http://bit.ly/cANe9S