Friday News Dump: Wonkbites

by Adrianna McIntyre 

Health policy news: it happens all week, then we leave it here.

  1. The sticker shock that wasn’t. Probably the biggest news this week in health policy: California released the premium prices anticipated on their state insurance exchange, and they were lower than largely anticipated—in fact, premiums on the exchange might be as much as 29% lower than those currently observed in the small-business market. It’s worth noting that California law prohibited insurers from excluding small-business employees from coverage long before the Affordable Care Act, so California’s especially sunny experience could be atypical. Millennials take note: catastrophic plans for the under-30 set start in the $120-150/month range, but are not subsidy-eligible for those below 400% of the federal poverty line (about $46,000 in 2013). Bronze and silver plans are subsidy-eligible; depending on your income, more comprehensive insurance might actually be cheaper.
  2. Union support for Obamacare flags. Several unions, concerned that their members won’t be able to maintain the health plans they currently have under the new health care law, have begun to rally against it (or at least against the nuance that Taft-Hartley plans—through which many union members receive coverage—aren’t deemed  qualified healthcare providers for the purpose of subsidies). There’s  also concern that reform undercuts union bargaining, because the availability of exchange plans could complicate future efforts to negotiate new or different health care benefits.
  3. Double the (HIT) fun. Earlier this week, Secretary Sebelius announced that the meaningful use of electronic health records (EHR) has doubled in the last year. HHS has exceeded its goal to have 50% of doctor’s offices and 80% of hospitals with EHRs by the end of 2013. For reference, those numbers were just 9% and 17% back in 2008.
  4. Science remains the coolest. Researchers at the University of Michigan crafted a custom implant using a 3-D printer, saving the life of an infant with a serious lung disorder. The implant, a stent that will keep the boy’s airways open, is made of a flexible material that will grow with him. If that wasn’t sci-fi awesome enough, it’ll be absorbed by his body in about three years. </shameless alma mater and present graduate school plug>
  5. Why can’t penguins fly? Don’t act like you’ve never wondered.

Adrianna is a graduate student in public policy and public health at the University of Michigan.
Follow her on Twitter @onceuponA or subscribe to the blog.


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