Health Highlights: June 11, 2014

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Insurers Seek Changes to Health Care Law

Subsidies for Americans who buy minimal health coverage are among the changes to the health care law being sought by the insurance industry.

Insurers say subsidies on such plans would lead more young and healthy people to get coverage, which would reduce premiums across the board. Only 2 percent of the 8 million people who signed up for health insurance this year selected so-called catastrophic plans, which are not eligible for subsidies, the Associated Press reported.

This and other proposed changes to the Affordable Care Act were scheduled to be released Wednesday by America's Health Insurance Plans, the main industry trade group.

Their other suggestions include simplifying consumers' switch between insurers and making it easier for patients to find out which doctors and hospitals are in particular plans, and whether a plan covers their medications, the AP reported.

Insurers are currently submitting their proposed premiums for 2015 and it's expected that there will be increases of 10 percent or more.

"What is crucial for public policy leaders is to balance access and affordability," Karen Ignagni, head of America's Health Insurance Plans, told the AP. "Unless people feel that coverage is affordable, they won't participate in the system."

The trade group's suggestion that catastrophic plan premiums be subsidized could face stiff opposition from consumer groups, which have a low opinion of such plans. Some of those groups want lower out-of-pocket costs for people who buy a mid-level plan, the choice of 65 percent of those who signed up for coverage this year.

While catastrophic plans offer low monthly premiums, consumers are responsible for a large portion of their yearly medical costs. The plans are meant to help healthier people avoid financial hardship due to an unexpected serious illness or an accident, the AP reported.

In the new insurance exchanges created under the health care law, catastrophic plans are only available to consumers younger than 30. The insurance industry wants a catastrophic plan that would be available to people of any age, eligible for tax credits provided by the health care law, have an annual limit on out-of-pocket costs, and provide preventive care at no charge to the patient.

Posted: June 2014


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