Little Known Health Care Reforms

Written by , June 20, 2012

Little Known Health Care ReformsThere are few things that have gotten as much press coverage and generated as much discussion over the past several years as the recent set of federal health care reforms. While you’re probably at least somewhat familiar with the biggest and broadest reaching provisions, there are also a number of other lesser known provisions that are also part of the broad package of health care reforms.

Keep in mind that while many of these reforms have been passed into law, the implementation rules and regulations have not yet been finalized. Furthermore, some of these new obligations have a delayed effective date, which means that a particular law is on the books, but it hasn’t yet come into force.

Here is a summary on some of the health care reforms that have not received that much press coverage.

  • Simple Plan Summaries. Beginning later in 2012, health insurance companies must provide their customers with both a comprehensive summary of plan benefits, as well as a glossary of terms used by the plan. These two documents must be in a standardized format, and the purpose of the disclosures is to allow individuals to compare two different plans on an “apples for apples” basis, instead of having to decipher and try to compare different plan documents that can each run for hundreds of pages.
  • Disclosures on Benefits to Physicians. It’s long been known that drug and medical supply companies promote themselves to physicians by providing various financial benefits including consulting fees, speaking fees, travel expenses, meals and other items. What’s not been very well known is the extent of these financial relationships. Regulations will be prepared within the next several years to require drug companies to disclose the nature and extent of those relationships.
  • Nutritional Information. Fast food chains and any other eating establishment with more than 20 locations will soon be required to include calorie information directly on their menus. While the regulations to fully implement the law are not yet in place, some states and cities, including New York City, have already passed their own rules regarding nutritional labeling on restaurant menus.
  • Employer Incentives for Wellness Programs. The Department of Health and Human Services is now authorized to provide financial grants to small businesses (those with less than 100 employees) that want to start new employee wellness programs to help their workers become healthier. Employers may also use some of these funds to provide partial rebates of health insurance premiums to employees who participate in such wellness programs.
  • The Tanning Salon Tax. One of the more obscure provisions in the various health care reforms imposes a 10% tax on every visit to a commercial tanning booth. The rationale for the tax is that indoor tanning machines have been identified as carcinogenic, and the tax might provide a sufficient disincentive for individuals to stop or reduce their use of tanning beds.

Not every individual will be directly affected by all of these lesser known health care reforms. But learning a little bit more about each still might be a good idea in the long run.

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