Monday, January 28th, 2013
A number of religious organizations are filing lawsuits to challenge the provision of the new health care law that requires employers to cover birth control in their health plans. The flurry of lawsuits may mean the question will eventually be presented to the U.S. Supreme Court, legal analysts are saying. The New York Times reports:
In recent months, federal courts have seen dozens of lawsuits brought not only by religious institutions like Catholic dioceses but also by private employers ranging from a pizza mogul to produce transporters who say the government is forcing them to violate core tenets of their faith. Some have been turned away by judges convinced that access to contraception is a vital health need and a compelling state interest. Others have been told that their beliefs appear to outweigh any state interest and that they may hold off complying with the law until their cases have been judged. New suits are filed nearly weekly.
“This is highly likely to end up at the Supreme Court,” said Douglas Laycock, a law professor at the University of Virginia and one of the country’s top scholars on church-state conflicts. “There are so many cases, and we are already getting strong disagreements among the circuit courts.”
President Obama’s health care law, known as the Affordable Care Act, was the most fought-over piece of legislation in his first term and was the focus of a highly contentious Supreme Court decision last year that found it to be constitutional.
But a provision requiring the full coverage of contraception remains a matter of fierce controversy. The law says that companies must fully cover all “contraceptive methods and sterilization procedures” approved by the Food and Drug Administration, including “morning-after pills” and intrauterine devices whose effects some contend are akin to abortion.
As applied by the Health and Human Services Department, the law offers an exemption for “religious employers,” meaning those who meet a four-part test: that their purpose is to inculcate religious values, that they primarily employ and serve people who share their religious tenets, and that they are nonprofit groups under federal tax law.
Image: Lawsuit paperwork, via Shutterstock
Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012
Out-of-pocket expenses for kids’ health care are rising, and health care spending is growing fastest among Americans under age 18, a new study by the Health Care Cost Institute has found. CNN.com reports:
The institute is an independent nonprofit research organization that partnered with four major insurance companies (Aetna, Kaiser, United and Humana) to analyze 3 billion insurance claims of people with group employer-sponsored health insurance.
The study said consumers’ out-of-pocket expenses rose 7% from 2009 to 2010, according to the institute. For insurers, costs only rose 2.6% during that time period.
Per person under 65, the average annual spending on health care was $4,255 — that’s a combination of what people and their insurance companies paid.
Between 2009 and 2010, it rose 4.5% for Americans under 18. The trend has been upwards for children since 2007, when the average annual expenditure for this group was $1,790, compared to $2,123.
Image: Money, via Shutterstock.
Thursday, April 19th, 2012
A piece of legislation was signed into law today in Michigan, requiring health insurance companies to pay for therapies, medications, and treatments related to autism spectrum disorders (ASD) for children up to age 18. NPR.org has more on some potential limitations of the otherwise exciting development:
The new law, which will go into effect on October 1, requires insurance companies to pay for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis and treatment for children up to age 18.
The state law does not, however, compel “self-funded” insurance plans to carry autism coverage. Those health insurance plans are regulated by federal laws.
Most large employers, such as GM, Home Depot, DTE Energy, and even the State of Michigan provide benefits through a “self-funded health care plan.”
To get self-funded insurers to adopt autism coverage, the new state law establishes for an incentive program to encourage employers with self-funded insurance plans to adopt autism coverage.
Image: Gavel, via Shutterstock.
Tuesday, January 17th, 2012
The new health care law requires that insurance companies screen for and offer prevention measures against the obesity epidemic that affects an estimated one in three U.S. children. But implementing the law with programs that are proven successful is difficult, health care providers are saying.
The New York Times reports:
Other than intensive hospital-based programs, few proven models exist for helping children and adolescents achieve and maintain a healthier weight, and researchers do not even fully understand the factors that contributed to the rapid rise in childhood obesity in recent years. “If this were easy, if there were clear outcomes for success, we would be investing in these,” said Dr. Samuel R. Nussbaum, the chief medical officer for WellPoint, one of the nation’s largest health insurers.
While there are many community efforts aimed at getting every child to eat better and exercise more, including Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative, there is also growing demand for programs that help children who are already seriously overweight. WellPoint and the UnitedHealth Group, another large insurer, are experimenting with new approaches, and even Weight Watchers says it is working to develop a program for children and teenagers. Drug companies and medical device makers are also testing some products on children.
Adults have a difficult enough time losing weight, and the issues are even more complicated with children and teenagers, experts say. Children are still growing, and the goal of any program may be to help them grow into a healthier weight rather than to actually lose pounds. Experts also say that to be successful, programs need to focus on the family as a whole, changing what everybody eats and how much time they are all active, not sitting in front of a computer screen or television.
Image: Doctor weighing a healthy boy, via Shutterstock
Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011
The Obama administration has announced a number of preventative care measures that health insurance companies will be required to cover under the new health care laws. Among them are several that affect women. According to a press release from the US Department of Health and Human Services, the measures include:
- well-woman visits;
- screening for gestational diabetes;
- human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing for women 30 years and older;
- sexually-transmitted infection counseling;
- human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) screening and counseling;
- FDA-approved contraception methods and contraceptive counseling;
- breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling; and
- domestic violence screening and counseling.
Religious institutions that offer health insurance to their employees will have the option of whether to cover birth control, citing the Constitutional precedents of religious accommodation.