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Insurers Bringing Plans Into Compliance With New Mental Health Rules

The Wall Street Journal reports that insurers are bringing their insurance plans in compliance with new rules and laws that make mental health and substance abuse insurance coverage available to millions of Americans. "The law, called the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, ensures that employees receive the same level of mental-health benefits as they do for medical and surgical care. It bans a plan from using deductibles for the treatment of mental-health disorders or substance abuse that are different from ones for medical and surgical care. And there can no longer be limits on treatment if no limits on medical and surgical care are in place as well.

Clinton Health Reform Veterans Helping With Obama Overhaul Effort

The Associated Press reports that aides who helped with President Bill Clinton's health care reform effort are pushing to help President Barack Obama pass his health system overhaul this year. The aides "are adamant that the Democrats can't afford another health care disaster. But they're divided on whether scaling down Obama's plan would be an acceptable solution. ... 'If Bill Clinton couldn't get it done, and Barack Obama can't do it, no Democrat will ever try again, ' said economist Len Nichols, health policy director at the New America Foundation. A Clinton White House health budget aide, Nichols has been operating as an unofficial adviser to lawmakers and administration officials wrestling with details of the current legislation.

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KHN Column: Yes, Let's Talk About Those Republican Ideas

In his latest Kaiser Health News column, done in partnership with The New Republic, Jonathan Cohn writes: ''[F]or much of the last year, Republicans have been scaring the bejeezus out of seniors by telling them that Democrats were out to destroy Medicare. But the Roadmap makes clear that it's not Democrats who seek massive, disruptive changes to the program. It's the Republicans. If the coming engagement between the Republicans and President Obama help the public to understand that reality, extending the debate might actually be worth it" (2/8). Read entire column. This information was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with kind permission from the Henry J.

Analysts: If Health Reform Fails, Expect More Industry Mergers

News outlets report on how the fate of the health care overhaul might affect health industry mergers and biotech firms. BusinessWeek: "With Congress' sweeping overhaul of the health system stalled, industry will seek its own answers to a push by government and the private sector to rein in costs, said Curtis Lane, senior managing director at MTS Health Partners, a New York-based equity fund." An aging population will further increase health spending, and "[o]ne solution will be increased consolidation, with companies led by WellPoint Inc., the biggest U.S. insurer by enrollment, and Community Health Systems Inc., the largest publicly traded hospital chain, scooping up rivals unable to 'spread rising costs across fewer customers, ' said Paul Keckley, of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions" (Nussbaum and Tirrell, 2/8).

Health Bill Stall Creates Uncertainty For Drug Makers

"With the possible demise of health care legislation, getting back to business as usual may not be the best thing for the nation's drug makers, " The New York Times reports. "After all, in return for the prospect of tens of millions of newly insured customers and a large degree of regulatory certainty, the pharmaceutical industry had agreed to pay a relatively small price: $8 billion a year in discounts and fees. It was a modest compromise for an industry with $246 billion in prescription drug sales last year. But now, with the health care overhaul on a back burner in Washington and possibly dead for this year, drug makers are getting a sinking sense of how a piecemeal public policy future might look for them.

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Obama Outlines Plan To Pass Health Reform

President Obama on Thursday at a Democratic National Committee fundraising reception presented his most clear-cut strategy to date for passing health reform, the New York Times ' "Prescriptions" reports. Obama said that after lawmakers work out the differences between the House and Senate reform bills (HR 3962, HR 3590), he wants to meet publicly with Democrats, Republicans and independent experts to consider the measures and clarify particular reform provisions. Obama said lawmakers and the independent experts would then hold a debate on the overhaul proposals before Congress decides whether to pass a reform bill. Obama also said he wants to work through the proposals "in a methodical way, so that the American people can see and compare what makes most sense.

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