As of Thursday, insurers are no longer able to impose annual limits or lifetime caps on benefits, and they will face a higher standard before they can drop anyone’s coverage. Children will be guaranteed access to insurance no matter what their health condition. Additionally, parents can keep their adult children on their plans up to age 26. Also, insurers can’t charge copays or deductibles for preventive services like breast cancer screening and cholesterol tests. And the last notable change is that insurance companies can’t require you to make additional payments if you visit an emergency room that’s out-of-network for a medical emergency. Of course there are caveats to the aforementioned. To read a more comprehensive breakdown of the recent changes, click here.
Obama Gives $130 Million to Shore Up Healthcare Workforce
Last Friday the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) allocated $130.8 million to shore up America’s healthcare workforce. The funds will be distributed to six key areas, including oral health workforce training ($23.9 million), primary care workforce training ($42.1 million), health career opportunity programs for disadvantaged students ($2.1 million), patient navigator outreach ($3.8 million), equipment to enhance training across the health professions ($50.5 million), and chronic disease prevention in health disparity populations ($8.3 million).
House Bans Bad Executives from Medicare
On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed a bill that provides HHS with the authority to ban corporate executives whose companies (past and present) were convicted of fraud. The bill was sparked by the case of Rick Scott, a Republican candidate for Florida governor, who continued to work in the Medicare industry despite the fact that a previous company he helmed pleaded guilty of massive Medicare fraud. The bill now moves to the Senate where it is expected to be made law.
Medicare Advantage Rates Fall, Membership Rises
On Tuesday the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that Medicare Advantage plans will see an average price decrease of one percent in 2011 and that membership will grow by five percent. Last year, Medicare Advantage rates rose 15%. CMS representatives said that seniors should find little to no changes in their benefits in 2011. The cost decrease this year is attributed to the new Affordable Care Act that empowered CMS to better negotiate with health plan providers. CMS also is encouraging seniors to begin reviewing their options as open enrollment starts November 15. You and your clients may be interested in CMS’ official online Open Enrollment Center that can be accessed here
Sources: The Hill, NPR, CMS, KHN