Benefits under health law will vary by state; Restaurant chain backs off plan to move to part-time workers to avoid insurance costs

Published on December 7, 2012 at 4:45 AM · No Comments

The New York Times looks at the wide variations in essential health benefits defined by states, while The Associated Press reports that Darden Restaurants, which owns Olive Garden and Red Lobster, has decided not to try to avoid health law requirements and will not switch full-time employees to part-time status.

The New York Times: Interest Groups Push To Fill Margins Of Health Coverage
The main goal of the health care law has always been to guarantee medical coverage to nearly all Americans, but as states finalize their benefits packages, it is becoming clear that what is received will depend partly on location. According to proposals that the states have submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services, insurance plans will have to cover weight-loss surgery in New York and California, for example, but not in Minnesota or Connecticut. Infertility treatment will be a required benefit in New Hampshire, but not in Arizona. Over all, the law requires that essential health benefits cover 10 broad categories, including emergency services, maternity and newborn care, hospitalization, preventive care and prescription drugs. But there is room for variation in those categories. Whether insurance will pay for hearing aids, foot care, speech therapy and various medications will vary significantly by state (Goodnough, 12/5). 

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Olive Garden Owner Darden Restaurants To Hold Off Worker Changes Tied To Health Care Reform
The owner of Olive Garden and Red Lobster says it won't bump any full-time workers down to part-time status, after its tests aimed at limiting health care costs resulted in a publicity backlash that took a bite out of sales. ... The company, based in Orlando, Fla., is set to announce Thursday that none of its current full-time employees will have their status changed as a result of the new regulations. The move will come just two days after the company lowered its profit outlook for the year, citing failed promotions and negative publicity from its tests that used more part-time employees. The tests were aimed at keeping down costs tied to new health care regulations, which will require large companies to provide insurance to full-time workers starting in 2014 (12/5).

Meanwhile, a federal judge in New York allows a lawsuit to go forward on the administration's contraceptions policy -

Politico Pro: Judge Dismisses Contraception Rule Challenge For Two Plaintiffs
A district court dismissed claims brought by two Catholic organizations in New York against the Obama administration's employer contraception coverage rule but will let challenges from three other Catholic plaintiffs proceed. Judge Brian M. Cogan of the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of New York said in a ruling released Wednesday that the claims brought by Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y., and Catholic Charities do not have standing, as they may be "grandfathered" plans that do not have to immediately comply with the rule (Smith, 12/5).

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