The federal government might start taxing health insurers in fiscal year 2011 to pay for a program to compare the effectiveness of various health care products and procedures.
The provision has support in principle from health care insurers and providers, but the devil is in the details, and the language in the House bill is drawing fire from both America’s Health Insurance Plans and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
H.R. 3162, the Children’s Health and Medicare Protection Act, includes a provision that would provide funding for a new health care effectiveness research agency. The legislation passed the House on August 1 (see story above).
The agency would be part of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a unit of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which already backs some health care quality and efficiency research.
The H.R. 3162 provision would draw $300 million in funding for the agency from the beleaguered Medicare Trust Fund for the first three fiscal years. The government then would collect $375 million from the Medicare Trust Fund, employer-sponsored health plans and other private insurance plans to pay for the effectiveness comparison program.
Rep. Jim McCrery, R-La., the senior Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, called the health care effectiveness agency tax provision a “stealth tax increase that will drain money from the Medicare trust fund and increase taxes on every American with a health insurance plan.”
Mohit Ghose, a spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, Washington, says AHIP has supported the idea of creating an independent health care effectiveness comparison entity.