Morning Health

Business to benefit from health reform? Democrats are touting a couple of new studies highlighting the law's benefits for employers. Meanwhile, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce holds its Labor Day briefing blasting government policies that create "barriers to job creation" — including healthcare reform.

The RAND Corporation has a perspective in the New England Journal of Medicine looking at the law's effect on workers' health insurance coverage. The authors address the question of "whether the employers’ role in providing insurance will diminish or disappear over time."

Their answer: The law will result in a "large net increase in employer-sponsored insurance offers," particularly among small employers: The proportion of employees at firms with 50 or fewer workers who are offered coverage would increase from 60.4 percent to 85.9 percent under RAND's modeling.

RAND offers two reasons: "greater demand for coverage by workers due to individual penalties for being uninsured and the availability of new, often lower-cost insurance options (because of administrative savings, for example) for small businesses that offer coverage on the exchanges." Read the study: http://bit.ly/d0NZM6

Meanwhile, the Commonwealth Fund writes in a new report that 16.6 million small business employees work in firms that will be eligible for tax credits under the new law. The study says 3.4 million might work in firms that will take advantage of the credits by 2013. Not only that, but the value of the tax credits will increase in 2014, from as much as 35 percent of employers' premium contribution to as much as 50 percent.

The Commonwealth Fund goes on to list other provisions that should benefit small businesses and their employees, including administrative cost limits and annual review of premium increases.

“The Affordable Care Act is a big step forward for small businesses and their employees,” Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis said in a statement. “Not only will business owners see immediate benefits from the tax credits, but owners and employees alike will be protected from steep premium increases and high out-of-pocket costs, ensuring they will have access to the stable, secure health insurance they deserve.”

Read the Commonwealth Fund press release: http://bit.ly/auXEvB

Read the study: http://bit.ly/cIzlBy

The Chamber of Commerce isn't toning down its criticism of the new law. Among the issues expected to come up at its briefing on obstacles to job creation is the 1099 tax reporting requirement, which businesses are trying to have pared down or eliminated.

The Chamber doesn't think the law can be repealed but it fighting hard to have it amended, according to a memo obtained by ABC News in March: http://bit.ly/b1q05b


Businesses of two minds on health reform? Speaking of the Chamber, 20 or so of the members of its board of directors are participating in the federal Early Retiree Reinsurance Program, according to an analysis by The Hill. The $5 billion program was created by the health reform law and helps pay for retirees medical bills before they're eligible for Medicare.

"We’re pleased the Affordable Care Act is delivering much-needed relief to businesses that provide coverage for their retirees," said an administration official. Read more: http://bit.ly/dg5q6Y


Wyden moves ahead with health-reform waiver: Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wants to let Oregon ignore certain provisions of the new law, including its individual mandate, the Huffington Post reports.

"The Oregon Democrat is seeking to take advantage of a provision he helped write into the legislation that allows states to set up their own health care systems as long as they meet minimal requirements established by the Department of Health and Human Services," writes Sam Stein. "In a letter to the state's Health Authority office, Wyden announced that he will introduce legislation to accelerate the start date for state waivers from 2017 to 2014, if not earlier for Oregon specifically." Read more: http://huff.to/asWdhZ


Health Information Technology announcement planned: Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius travels to Cincinnati to highlight the administration's continued investments in HIT. While there, she's scheduled to make "an announcement regarding the use of electronic medical records," according to HHS.


Lawmakers rebuffed on durable medical equipment request: The Obama administration this week rejected a request from House lawmakers that Medicare announce the first-round winners of the agency's competitive bidding program for durable medical equipment (DME).

"We do not believe it would be appropriate or in the public interest to release any bidders' names before the contracting process is complete, as there are a number of risks associated with doing so," Donald Berwick, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), wrote in an Aug. 30 letter to Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.). Read more: http://bit.ly/c4xCOb


Hospital profits raise eyebrows: Forbes magazine this week released its first-ever survey of America's most profitable hospitals, revealing 24 hospitals with more than 200 beds make 25 cents or more for every dollar of patient revenue they take in. The report is being widely disseminated by the health-insurance industry, which is pushing back against claims that health insurance profits — rather than rising medical costs — are to blame for rising premiums. Read more: http://bit.ly/dDuW2d