In this week’s summary: Lawmakers and policy wonks across the country continue to react to changes stemming from the Affordable Care Act; new technology could dramatically alter the way people take their medications; years after the passage of the ADA, disabled persons still face consistent problems, all that and much more in this Memorial Day Weekend edition of health news.
Affordable Care Act
The Wall Street Journal highlights a trend among employers to provide bare-bones health plans to meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. Benefits advisers and insurance brokers are pitching these low-benefit plans around the country. They cover minimal requirements such as preventive services, but often little more. Some of the plans wouldn’t cover surgery, X-rays or prenatal care at all. Others will be paired with limited packages to cover additional services, for instance, $100 a day for a hospital visit (Weaver and Mathews, 5/19).
The Los Angeles Times profiles the concerns of some health policy experts over ensuring continuous health care coverage for the 28 million low-income Americans that could transition between Medicaid coverage and insurance through the state health insurance exchanges. Income changes for common life events such as taking a second job, having children and getting married or divorced could disrupt health coverage. Difficult transitions could result in more hospitalizations and emergency room visits (Gorman, 5/20).
Lawmakers across the country are reacting to a plan from the Department of Health and Human Services to create a small army of assistants to guide millions of Americans as they sign up for new health-insurance options available this fall. The Wall Street Journal writes that backers of the health-care overhaul face an uphill battle to spread the word about the law, in the face of consumer research that suggests most uninsured people know little about it and are skeptical about the value of health insurance generally (Radnofsky, 5/20).
USA Today reports that healthy policy analysts believe that market forces and an impetus to attract younger, healthier people into the insurance market will help keep health insurance premiums lower as the Affordable Care Act takes effect on Jan. 1 (Kennedy, 5/21).
The Wall Street Journal reports on exciting new technology that could help patients comply with prescription drug regimes in a more consistent manner. Startup companies are coming up with technologies aimed at getting people to take medicine only as directed. Taking medication haphazardly—skipping doses, lapsing between refills or taking pills beyond their expiration date—has been linked to health complications and hundreds of millions of wasted dollars for insurers and hospitals (Hay, 5/20).
USA Today reports on the rise of electronic medical records by medical providers. More than half of doctors’ offices and 80% of hospitals that provide Medicare or Medicaid will have electronic health records by the end of the year, the Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday (Kennedy, 5/22).
The FDA has released draft guidelines on how it intends to regulate expanded access to experimental drugs. The guidance on investigational new drug applications comes in a question-and-answer format; feedback is due by July 1st.
Despite legal protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act, people with disabilities still face significant health care disparities. Studies in recent years have revealed that disabled patients tend not only to be in poorer health, but also to receive inadequate preventive care and to experience worse outcomes. A recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine examined some of the reasons individuals with disabilities receive subpar care.