By Elise Viebeck and Sam Baker - 07/24/12 10:30 PM EDT
Essential steps: Roughly 20 states have taken at least an initial step toward defining “essential health benefits,” according to a new analysis from the National Academy of State Health Policy (NASHP).
The Affordable Care Act lists broad categories of essential benefits, such as “emergency services” and “prescription drugs,” which every individual and small-group plan will have to cover beginning in 2014. The Health and Human Services Department is leaving it to the states to fill in their own specific requirements by selecting a “benchmark” plan that others will have to meet.
Defining 'affordable': The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that at least 460,000 uninsured kids may not qualify for coverage under the healthcare overhaul because of what the IRS considers "affordable" insurance. The definition matters because it determines who can receive federal subsidies to buy coverage and who cannot. Critics say that the current definition needs to be broadened to match the goals of the Affordable Care Act and ensure better coverage for kids. Kaiser Health News has more on the GAO's report.
Like it's hot: Surveying 560 U.S. companies, consulting firm Deloitte found that 9 percent of employers are planning to drop employee health benefits within three years as the health law takes effect. Eighty-one percent said they would continue covering employees, and 10 percent said they were not sure. The study found that smaller firms were most likely to say they will drop coverage. Thirteen percent of companies with 50 to 100 workers said they would end policies within three years, compared with 2 percent of companies with more than 1,000 workers.
The findings could bolster opponents of the law, who argue that its changes to the healthcare system will force workers out of insurance plans they like. Supporters of the law say most people will keep their current coverage. Read more at Healthwatch.
Fighting TB: A small trial found that new combination of drugs could prove a fast and effective antidote for tuberculosis, one of the largest killers of people who die of complications from AIDS. The treatment eliminated 99 percent of TB bacteria from patients' bodies within two weeks, according to a report, and would not interfere with therapies for HIV. A spokesman for the TB Alliance said "the beginning of a bounty for TB research is emerging" as countries spend "billions" of dollars to fight AIDS. The Los Angeles Times has the story on the new drug trial.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing on the Medicare Advantage Quality Bonus Payment Demonstration.
The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on shortages in U.S. supplies of prescription drugs.
State by state
New York governor signs law to improve breast cancer detection.
California pays Medicaid doctors half as much as North Dakota.
Report says states can’t shrink Medicaid as Maine governor plans.
Appeals court upholds South Dakota abortion law's suicide advisory.
California county makes industry pay to toss Rx pills.
The cost of the Medicaid opt-outs (in one chart).
Pro, con arguments on proposed NY sugary drink ban.
Researchers report more condom use among teenagers.
Study links food insecurity to obesity.
What you might have missed on Healthwatch
News bites: Alzheimer's drug fails trial.
Study: More adolescent girls reporting depression than boys.
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