Kaiser Health News Original Stories

5. Political Cartoon: 'Nothing To Sneeze At?'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Nothing To Sneeze At?'" by Gary Varvel, The Indianapolis Star.

Here's today's health policy haiku:

PROPOSED REG AIMS TO PROMOTE HEALTH CARE EQUALITY

Long-awaited rule
expands protections based on
gender in health law.

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Health Law Issues And Implementation

6. Administration Unveils Protections For Transgender Patients’ Health Services

The new guarantees are part of a wide-ranging proposed rule that would bar discrimination based on gender in insurance coverage, treatments and access.

The New York Times: Health Care Rules Proposed To Shield Transgender Patients From Bias
The Obama administration proposed a rule Thursday that would forbid most health insurers and medical providers to discriminate against transgender patients, including by prohibiting insurers from categorically denying coverage of care related to gender transition. The proposal clarifies a civil rights provision of the Affordable Care Act that bans “any health program or activity” that receives federal funds from discriminating based on race, national origin, sex, age or disability. The proposed regulation expands on that broad language, specifying that the administration considers discrimination on the basis of gender identity a form of sex discrimination. (Goodnough and Sanger-Katz, 9/4)

The Washington Post: U.S. Moves To Protect Women, Transgender People In Health Care
The ACA already bars discrimination based on sex and other factors, but the long-delayed proposed regulation issued Thursday explains how the protections will be applied to insurers and health-care providers, such as hospitals and doctors who receive Medicare and Medicaid payments, and it clarifies the standards federal officials would use in implementing the law. The proposed regulation comes as social attitudes about sexuality and gender are undergoing major shifts. (Sun and Bernstein, 9/3)

The Wall Street Journal: Obama Administration Proposes Antidiscrimination Rules Under Health Law
Federal officials have been wrestling for years about how to handle the Affordable Care Act’s provision that requires health insurers and providers to ensure they treat patients equally, including on the basis of their sex and race. The requirement has been in effect since 2010, the year the law was passed, but the administration is still fleshing out its details. The thorniest issue has been whether federal officials also can use the provision to bar bias based on sexual orientation. (Radnofsky, 9/3)

CQ Healthbeat: Health Protections For Transgender People Pushed In HHS Rule
Doctors and hospitals that treat Medicaid patients and insurance companies participating in health law marketplaces would be banned from discriminating against transgender people under rules proposed Thursday by the Health and Human Services Department. Health plans would be prohibited from issuing a blanket denial of services to help a person transition to another gender, although the insurers still could refuse to cover surgery or other care on a case-by-case basis if the decisions are based on a legitimate rationale. (Attias, 9/3)

Politico Pro: HHS Finally Proposes Anti-Discrimination Health Care Rule
The Obama administration on Thursday issued a long-awaited proposed rule explaining how it will enforce a wide-ranging ban on health care discrimination. With that release, HHS is seeking to cement one of Obamacare’s key promises — equal access to health care regardless of a person’s race, color, nationality or disability. The rule would also ban health care discrimination on the basis of sex for the first time. (Millman, 9/3)

Kaiser Health News: HHS Unveils Civil Rights Protections For Transgender Patients’ Health Services
The Obama administration issued a sweeping proposal Thursday to bolster civil rights protections in health care, barring medical providers and insurers from discriminating based on gender, whether in treatments or access to facilities or services. The long-awaited rules from the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Health and Human Services further define protections included in the Affordable Care Act, particularly broadening those for transgender Americans. The proposal also includes provisions requiring medical providers to bolster their communication efforts for people with disabilities or limited English proficiency. (Appleby, 9/3)

Bloomberg: Insurers Can't Deny Gender Transition Treatment Under U.S. Plan
Transgender individuals would gain new health-care protections in rules proposed today by U.S. regulators. Under the rules, discrimination against transgender people would be a form of sex discrimination. That would block insurers from categorically denying coverage for treatments that help people transition to another gender, according to a fact sheet released today by the Department of Health and Human Services. Some exclusions for transition treatments will be evaluated case-by-case, the agency said. (Tracer, 9/3)

The Associated Press: Plan Targets Health Care Bias Against Transgender People
Mirroring a shift in society, the Obama administration proposed Thursday to ban discrimination against transgender people throughout the health care system. Once the proposed regulations are final, they should expand insurance coverage for gender transition and prohibit health care facilities from denying transgender people access to restrooms that match their individual gender identity. (Alonso-Zaldivar, 9/3)

Reuters: U.S. Government To Extend Healthcare Nondiscrimination Law To Transgender People
The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, was passed in 2010 and included anti-discrimination provisions to prevent insurers from charging customers more or denying coverage based on age or sex. That law left some areas open to interpretation and thousands of consumers complain each year about being discriminated against, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said on Thursday. (9/3)

The Huffington Post: New Rules Bar Transgender Discrimination In Health Care
The Obama administration is making a major push for transgender rights by prohibiting health insurance companies and medical providers from discriminating against patients because of their gender identities. Under a proposed regulation issued by the Department of Health and Human Services Thursday, transgender people would be entitled to equal treatment in health care and would gain the legal right to make civil rights claims against insurers, doctors, hospitals and others who deny them coverage or necessary care because they are transgender. That includes forbidding health insurers from categorically excluding treatments related to gender transitions. (Young, 9/3)

7. Financial Losses Prompt Highmark To Cut Health Plan Offerings On Obamacare Exchanges

In other news on state insurance plans, the California Association of Health Plans opposes legislation that would tax health plan participants while California Healthline reports on the success of the state's takeover of a local health plan.

The Wall Street Journal: Highmark Is Latest To Trim Offerings Under Health Law
Highmark Health said it would reduce its range of offerings on the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, becoming the latest insurer to retrench amid steep financial losses. The big Pittsburgh-based nonprofit company said it would continue to sell plans related to the federal health overhaul in all of the areas it currently serves, which span Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia. But “we will have less products in the market overall,” said David L. Holmberg, the company’s chief executive, who said Highmark had lost $318 million on its individual health-law plans in the first six months of 2015, after rolling out a very broad array of options that had attracted many consumers with chronic conditions who required costly care. (Wilde Mathews, 9/3)

The Sacramento Bee: Health Plans Come Out Against Tax Bills
California’s largest health plan group this week declared its opposition to both of the healthcare special session bills that would impose new taxes on managed-care organizations, the latest sign that a replacement for a soon-to-expire health plan tax is unlikely to emerge before lawmakers adjourn next week. (Miller, 9/3)

And, as enrollment season approaches, KHN writes on the benefits of COBRA vs. health law plans and North Carolina's Navigator Consortium gets a grant to help sign up consumers -