Washington Health Policy Week in Review Archive

Washington Health Policy Week in Review is a weekly newsletter that offers selected stories from the daily newsletter CQ HealthBeat.

  • July 5, 2006 Issue
Average Family of Four Will Pay $13,382 for Health Care, Study Estimates

The "typical American family of four" will pay an average of $13,382 for medical services in 2006, up 9.6 percent from 2005, according to a study by the consulting firm Milliman. The study, part of the second annual Milliman Medical Index, examined average costs in five areas for a family covered by an employer-sponsored PPO. The five areas include inpatient services, outpatient services, physician care, pharmacy costs, and other services, such as ambulatory care, medical equipment, private nursing, and home health costs.

CMS to Make Beneficiaries' Drug Plan Complaints Public

Starting in mid-July, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will make public Medicare beneficiaries' complaints about their Medicare prescription drug plan. The complaints, which could include not responding to requests for appeals or drugs covered, would be reported on a percentage basis as related to a plan's total enrollment, said CMS spokesman Peter Ashkenaz.

Effort to Delay New Medicaid Citizenship Requirements Blocked

Senate GOP leaders objected to a unanimous consent request to pass legislation that would delay new Medicaid U.S. citizenship verification requirements set to begin July 1. Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, D-Hawaii, sponsor of the measure (S 3590) that would delay the implementation of those requirements until Jan. 31, 2007, said he did not know which Republicans objected to his bill. "I don't know what their reasons are," Akaka said. A Senate GOP aide said the measure was blocked because members had not yet had a chance to review it or see a Congressional Budget Office score of its financial impact. The bill also had not undergone committee consideration, the aide said.

Employers Tightening Retiree Health Coverage, Survey Finds

Despite subsidies from the Medicare drug program, many employers are planning to curtail their health care coverage for current and future retirees, according to a survey released last week by the management consulting firm Watson Wyatt Worldwide. Only 5 percent of the 163 companies surveyed said they do not expect to place any additional restrictions on their medical benefits for future retirees over the next five years, and 7 percent do not expect to implement further restrictions for current retirees.

House Dems Introduce Medicare Drug Bill

House Democrats have unveiled Medicare prescription drug legislation they said would be simpler, more affordable, and less complicated than current Medicare prescription drug benefits. Among its provisions, the proposal would require the Medicare program to administer the benefit and negotiate prescription drug prices for all Medicare beneficiaries.

The HSA Experience, So Far

The debate over the effectiveness of health savings accounts to improve health care coverage while reducing its cost raged last week at a Ways and Means hearing. Employers and insurers told the panel that "HSAs" present many new options for affordable health care coverage for companies and their workers, and urged lawmakers to make several changes to current law to help increase HSA enrollment. But the director of an urban health care center and a health care researcher concluded HSAs might actually discourage consumers from getting preventative medical care services, as patients are struggling to meet the policies' high deductibles and out-of-pocket costs.

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