Healthcare Thursday

State commissioners send MLR to HHS: The National Association of Insurance Commissioners sent its medical-loss-ratio definitions to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for approval on Wednesday, but the debate is far from over. In a cover letter accompanying the submission, the NAIC warns that "we continue to have concerns about the potential for unintended consequences arising from the medical loss ratio."  

The recommendations were unanimously approved by state insurance regulators on Oct. 21. But the NAIC reiterates its concern that "consumers will not benefit from higher medical loss ratios if the outcome is destabilized insurance markets where consumer choice is limited and the solvency of insurers is undermined." 

The NAIC, which supports a phase-in period for the medical-loss ratio, urges HHS to "give deference to the analysis and recommendations of state regulators when determining how the new requirements will be implemented in a destabilized market." The cover letter also expresses concern about the ratio's impact on agents and brokers, and notes that the NAIC has created a working group to coordinate with HHS to "ensure that the vital role of agents and brokers is preserved, especially during years leading up to 2014" when state insurance exchanges go into effect.

Hospital group wants anti-trust exemption: The Federation of American Hospitals wants federal regulators to create a "safe harbor" protecting hospitals from anti-trust rules as they set up Accountable Care Organizations called for in the healthcare reform law. The ACOs aim to provide more efficient delivery of care through closer coordination between physicians and hospitals.

"The FAH strongly believes that such a safe harbor is necessary," President and CEO Charles Kahn writes in a letter to letter to the heads of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Federal Trade Commission and the HHS inspector general. "The absence of such a safe harbor will retard the spread and potential benefits of ACOs, both in Medicare and the commercial market."

Prescription-drug campaign gets cash: The National Association of Chain Drug Stores Foundation on Wednesday announced a $1 million contribution to the National Consumers League's national campaign to raise consumer awareness of the public health benefits of taking medications as prescribed. The medication-adherence awareness campaign includes more than 100 stakeholders from public- and private-sector advocacy organizations, government agencies and corporations, and will officially launch next spring.

New study weighs risks and benefits of pharmaceutical outsourcing: Global pharmaceutical outsourcing has become increasingly prevalent, says a new study by PricewaterhouseCoopers, but is creating a complex and risky supply-chain environment that has pharmaceutical and life sciences executives on high alert. The study cautions that "the ability to control the safety, efficacy and effectiveness of products will continue to be a challenge until the industry implements systems that can provide real time, global visibility into the supply chain, including practices and information from suppliers, distributors, shippers, and contract manufacturers."

Fight over abortion gets extreme: Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards on Wednesday called on the federal government to "investigate … seriously" new "Wanted" posters targeting abortion doctors that have gone up in the Charlotte, N.C., area. 

"Americans should not forget that in the recent past, ‘Wanted’ posters targeted physicians who provided abortions, and then those physicians were assassinated," Richards said. "Now, anti-choice extremists have resurrected the same tactic to frighten and intimidate doctors who help women on a daily basis. There is simply no place in our society for such outrageous and dangerous conduct."

The posters were put up by Operation Save America, which says the posters aren't threats but rather a statement that the doctors are wanted by Jesus. But CBS News in a segment about the posters, which include doctors' addresses, reminds viewers that similar posters went up before a rash of murders in the 1990s: David Gunn of Florida and George Patterson of Alabama were shot and killed in 1993, and John Britton was murdered a year later in Florida.

New poll shows stark partisan divide over healthcare reform: More than 7 in 10 respondents say that a candidate’s position on the healthcare law will play a role in their congressional vote, according to a new poll published in the New England Journal of Medicine — and there’s a large partisan division on this question: 67 percent of Democrats say they are more likely to vote for a congressional candidate who supported the new healthcare law, and 72 percent of Republicans say they are less likely to vote for such a candidate. Among independents, a larger proportion says they would be less likely (37 percent) to vote for a candidate who supported the new law.