Warning: Winds of Healthcare Change Ahead

Monday, August 29th, 2011
This post was written by Cheryl Miller

As we go to press Friday afternoon, Hurricane Irene is threatening to pummel our eastern coastline with winds greater than 80 mph; store shelves have been emptied of bottled water and batteries and anyone searching for a generator is probably out of luck.

Healthcare, too, is preparing for the winds of change as reform laws descend upon it, and many preparations are being made in its wake. HHS just announced it is awarding $40 million in grants to identify and enroll children eligible for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The two-year grants are authorized under the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA) of 2009, and part of the administration’s push to ensure all eligible children.

In a move to address shifting reimbursement plans, CMS is proposing four bundled payment plan models. These models are designed to align payments for services delivered during an episode of care, rather than paying for services separately. This new initiative will give providers the flexibility to determine which episodes of care and which services will be bundled together. Read more about this proposal in this week’s Healthcare Business Weekly Update.

And lastly, nearly one of every 10 mid-sized or big employers might stop offering health coverage to workers after insurance exchanges begin operating in 2014, states a recent survey from Towers Watson. The survey, which involved more than 1200 companies, says that the companies are willing to risk the ensuing fees and tax headaches that could arise with such a move. Last year, the average annual health insurance premium for employer-sponsored family coverage was $13,770 per worker, with companies picking up most of that tab,
according to the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research and Educational Trust. That cost has more than doubled since 2000.

But survey officials stress that these results aren’t written in stone, and that employers could change their minds given all the unresolved variables, not unlike the hurricane headed our way. We’ll just have to see what path the storm takes.

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