Policy-ish

Some Winners In Health Overhaul: Drugmakers And You

President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi look like big winners today, after historic votes late last night that moved an overhaul of the nation's health system within a signature of the president's pen.

Thirty-million more people are eventually expected to get insurance coverage as a result. People with preexisting conditions will soon have the chance from special insurance pools. Before long no insurer will be allowed to reject them.

For other victors, look no further than Big Pharma, which early on decided to cut a deal with the administration that would limit its financial sacrifices and potentially expand the market for its wares by covering the uninsured. Yes, drugmakers will wind up paying $84.8 billion over a decade—almost $5 billion more than they originally agreed to. But, the brand-name companies and biotech firms also get a dozen years of protection against generic competition on biotech medicines. The Wall Street Journal quotes a policy analyst saying the pharmaceuticals group is "probably the industry that came out best."

Insurers, for all the brickbats hurled their way recently, won't go down the tubes because of health overhaul. There's no public option to put the government in direct competition with private companies, and millions of people will get financial assistance to help them afford insurance. Of course, profits are likely to be squeezed by specific provisions of the plan and increasing health costs. And those companies that sell Medicare Advantage plans will be hurt by cuts in federal subsidies. But, as Forbes points out, insurers that focus on big employers shouldn't have many problems.

Average Janes and Joes get some good stuff from health overhaul. Our partners at Kaiser Health News put together an overview of some of the changes here. Children will soon be able to stay on their parents' health plans until age 26. Senior citizens will get better coverage for prescription drugs. Then there are the insurance industry reforms that will ban companies from some practices that have undercut people's coverage. And, as the New Yorker's James Surowiecki writes, insurers will now have to sell policies to all comers and at rates based on community averages.

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