Archive for May, 2009

NAHU Newswire

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Today’s News for the National Association of Health Underwriters from Newspapers, TV, Radio and the Journals


Customized Briefing for Jacquey Tabcum

May 7, 2009

Leading the News
Legislation and Policy
Public Health and Private Healthcare Systems
Consumer Directed Healthcare News
Also in the News

Leading the News


Sebelius defends public option before House committee hearing.

The Los Angeles Times (5/7, Levey) reports that Kathleen Sebelius, in her first appearance before Congress as HHS Secretary, “flatly rejected the idea of taking over the nation’s medical insurance system, saying the federal government did not want to assume management of healthcare coverage.” Testifying before the House Ways and Means Committee, Sebelius said, “Dismantling the private market and having an entirely public option, a single-payer system, I think is not something that the President supports.” Still, she “reaffirmed President Obama’s commitment to create a government-run insurance program to compete with private companies — and to help cover the more than 46 million people in the US without insurance and to encourage cost containment and better programs.”

        “The president is committed to — and I’m committed to — a design that needs to level the playing field, and it’s on two fronts,” Sebelius said, according to the Washington Times (5/7, Lengell). “Those two fronts include a more regulated private sector and a government-run ‘public option’ insurance plan, which President Obama and congressional Democrats say would provide needed competition for the private insurance market,” the Times reports.

        Reuters (5/7, Smith) notes that Republicans and insurers argue a public option would put insurers out of business, but Sebelius pointed out several states which currently offer public insurance plans to their employees.

        In fact, according to MSNBC (5/7, Adams), “Sebelius spent much of the hearing trying to reassure skeptical Republicans that a public insurance option would not undermine the existing private system and was not a ‘prelude’ to a single-payer, government-run system.” She also stressed that “the playing field now is not level — because private insurers can ‘cherry pick’ the healthiest patients to make a profit while declining coverage to the sickest.”

        Bloomberg News (5/7, Marcus) points out that “about 46 million people in the US, or 15 percent of the population, lacked health insurance in 2007, according to US Census data released in August. About 60 percent of the population obtained insurance through employers.”

        Focusing on the rhetoric of the debate, CQ HealthBeat (5/7, Reichard) notes “friendly talk” between Sebelius and Rep. David Camp (R-MI) but added that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) — whom Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) “sweet-talked by introducing him as a rising star in the Republican Party — wound up for a hard-hitting question by noting that despite nice rhetoric by the Obama administration about Americans being able to keep their current coverage, a public plan paying relatively low rates might cause providers to charge private plans so much that over 100 million Americans could lose their current coverage.” Sebelius did not have time to answer, but she did reiterate “President Barack Obama’s opposition to lifting the current exclusion of health insurance benefits from taxation,” according to the Wall Street Journal /Dow Jones Newswires (5/7, Yoest, subscription required). However, after the hearing Rep. Rangel “issued strong…opposition to the taxation of health benefits.”

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Tip of the Hat: Thank to you our Annual Convention Gold Sponsor Humana, Silver Sponsors Alfac and Wellpoint, Crystal Sponsors Assurant Health, BenefitMall and UnitedHealthcare, and Bronze Sponsors Standard, AlwaysCareNational Cooperative RxMorganWhite Group, HM Insurance Group and OptumHealth. For information on sponsoring or exhibiting at our 2009 Annual Convention, please contact Dianne Sautkulis at dsautkulis@nahu.org.

Legislation and Policy

Republican task force to release principles of alternative health plan.

CongressDaily (5/7, Edney, subscription required) reports, “A House Republican healthcare task force will unveil several principles today that members have agreed on as an alternative to the Democrats’ plan for an overhaul, and they are seeking advice from their GOP colleagues, according to a letter to Republicans set to go out today.” The principles call for “protecting Americans from a public option that limits patient choice in providers and treatment and forces millions to abandon their private coverage.” But “the public plan option got a boost today from HHS Secretary Sebelius, who told the House Ways and Means Committee that competition ‘often is a very healthy component of any market system.'” She also said that “appropriately designed rules can keep private insurance companies competitive against a public option.”

        Expert offers House Republicans tips on healthcare reform. CQ Today (5/7, Armstrong, subscription required) reports, “Republican message guru Frank Luntz is back — this time to help Republicans try to win the war of words as they battle Democrats on overhauling healthcare.” Luntz told a group of House Republicans Wednesday that the party “needs to get away from ‘markets’ and focus on ‘patients.'” Luntz, who is the author of a book “about the political effect of specific phrases and words, offered Republicans a detailed presentation on what language to use when talking about healthcare and how to attack Democratic proposals, along with a long list of ‘don’ts.'” He also told them that they “will get little chance to present their own vision…but they will have plenty of opportunities to stand in opposition to Democrats.”


Report indicates many insured Americans struggling with out-of-pocket health costs.

The Honolulu Advertiser (5/7) reports that, according to a study prepared by the Lewin Group for Families USA, “rising healthcare costs are reaching a crisis level nationally, even among families that have health insurance.” Kathleen Stoll, deputy executive director of Families USA noted that “many Americans with insurance are struggling to afford their own out-of-pocket costs.” In fact, throughout the nation, workers are “facing higher deductibles” while “shouldering more of the exense” amid rising premiums, she explained. The study revealed that “nationally, the number of people younger than 65 who were paying out more than 10 percent of their pretax income had increased to 64.4 million this year from 41.7 million in 2000.” That figure, she pointed out, represents “24.3 percent of people younger than 65.” Stoll said, “We are indeed in a state of crisis in affordability.”

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It is time for the 135th Kentucky Derby, Saturday at Churchill Downs, in Louisville:
Distance: 1 ¼ miles
Purse: $2.2 million
-99 different jockeys have won the Derby
-Top return on a $2 bet: $184.90 on Donerail, in 1913

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