Modern Healthcare - - LATE NEWS -

The Se­nate is con­sid­er­ing a tax on em­ployer health plans as part of its ver­sion of the House’s bill to re­peal and re­place the Af­ford­able Care Act. The tax would raise bil­lions of dol­lars in rev­enue. Un­der cur­rent law, em­ploy­ees’ health in­surance costs aren’t taxed as in­come and can be de­ducted by em­ploy­ers. Econ­o­mists ar­gue that tax pol­icy is an in­cen­tive for gen­er­ous in­surance pack­ages, spik­ing health­care costs. The tax has some sup­port in Congress. House Speaker Paul Ryan’s own health pro­posal in­cluded a tax on em­ployer plans. But prior ef­forts to end the tax break have failed un­der pres­sure from busi­ness groups and law­mak­ers who worry about back­lash from con­stituents. About 178 mil­lion Amer­i­cans get their health cov­er­age through their em­ploy­ers.

Reg­u­la­tors late last week opened a 10-day pe­riod for health in­surance com­pa­nies to sub­mit new rates or bow out of New Mex­ico’s state-run ex­change. Though the rates have not been dis­closed, peo­ple shop­ping for in­surance un­der the Af­ford­able Care Act could see higher prices and fewer choices next year, as key fed­eral in­surance sub­si­dies and en­force­ment pro­vi­sions are left in po­lit­i­cal limbo. About 55,000 New Mex­ico res­i­dents buy their in­surance through the state ex­change, known as be-Wellnm, and 200,000 are el­i­gi­ble to par­tic­i­pate.

The Cal­i­for­nia Se­nate late last week passed leg­is­la­tion ap­prov­ing a sin­gle­payer plan to cover all res­i­dents in the state. The bill would osten­si­bly elim­i­nate pri­vate health in­surance and pro­vide gov­ern­ment-funded health cov­er­age for every­one in the state. A state analysis found the pro­gram would cost about $400 bil­lion. The bill, how­ever, does not in­clude lan­guage or de­tails on how to cover those costs. The analysis found that much of the cost would be off­set by ex­ist­ing state, fed­eral and pri­vate spend­ing on health cov­er­age, but to­tal health­care costs would in­crease by an es­ti­mated $50 bil­lion to $100 bil­lion a year.

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