HEALTH SYSTEM REFORM: HSS Secretary Weighs-In on Premium Increases

In early January, the US Secretary of Health & Senior Services offered her Department’s assistance to the state of California concerning Blue Shield’s significant premium increases. In a news release, she stated that:

The practice of insurers imposing these kinds of rate increases without public scrutiny would be the wave of the future without the Affordable Care Act. If the law were repealed, we would be left with few tools to protect consumers against these kinds of rate increases. Insurers would be able to spend more on profits, marketing, and CEO bonuses, instead of care. Families and small businesses would lose their ability to negotiate more competitive rates in the Exchanges, and insurers would again be able to deny coverage to children based on their pre-existing health conditions. [News Release, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (January 6, 2011)].

Independent Payment Advisory Board
The Congressional Research Service (CRS), a non-partisan entity, has issued a report raising questions about the legal authority of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) established under the Affordable Care Act. The IPAB was created to “reduce the per capita rate of growth in Medicare spending.”  Board members are appointed by the President. The report takes the position that the IPAB is open to legal challenge because it shifts “the balance of power to the executive branch and away from Congress.” MSNJ objected to the IPAB for the same reason. Read the report in its entirety.

Physician Compare Website
The Physician Compare website is now live. The website was required by the healthcare reform law and is being implemented by CMS. While the physician directory is only for those who treat Medicare patients, the website is available to the public at large. Currently, the website includes information on physicians such as contact and address information, medical specialty, degree credentials, gender and languages spoken.
A second phase, schedule for later this year, will indicate whether physicians are prescribing electronically. In 2013 the website will include data on quality of care. MSNJ has expressed concern to CMS about how the quality of care information will be presented. MSNJ urges members to access the website to confirm the accuracy of the information provided.

About MSNJ

Founded in 1766, the Medical Society of New Jersey is the oldest professional society in the United States. The organization and its dues-paying members are dedicated to a healthy New Jersey, working to ensure the sanctity of the physician–patient relationship. In representing all medical disciplines, MSNJ advocates for the rights of patients and physicians alike, for the delivery of the highest quality medical care. This allows response to the patients’ individual, varied needs, in an ethical and compassionate environment, in order to create a healthy Garden State and healthy citizens.

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