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Supporters Gear Up for Health Reform’s First Birthday

Next Wednesday the health care reform law turns one, and the White House and other supporters of reform are planning a public relations push to mark the birthday.

A coalition of advocacy groups will host 200 town-hall meetings and other events next week. Cabinet secretaries will “fan out across the country to promote the law’s benefits,” the Wall Street Journal said. And Democrats in Congress left for their home districts this weekend with a message encouraging them to mark the anniversary there, according to The Hill.

But in some ways the Democrats’ celebrations are quieter than they were a year ago, Politico reports, as the law remains mired in controversy and polls show it hasn’t increased in popularity. Few other Democratic bigwigs, such as House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., surrounded House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., during a news conference Thursday to mark the bill’s anniversary.

And, the Wall Street Journal said, supporters could face an uphill battle this year, as the portions of the law scheduled to go into effect are more complex policy changes instead of the popular consumer protection provisions that took effect in 2010, including allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance:

Between now and the 2012 presidential election, few consumer-oriented changes kick in. That gives the administration few tools to break a deadlock in public opinion over President Barack Obama’s top domestic achievement.

Also this week:

Americans Confused, Divided on Reform

Speaking of that deadlock, the latest tracking poll [[PDF](http://www.kff.org/kaiserpolls/upload/8166-F.pdf)] from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that “Little has changed on the public opinion front since President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) into law last March 23.” Forty-two percent of the respondents view the law favorably, and 46 percent unfavorably — percentages that have budged little in the last year. Also: 53 percent of people say they’re “confused” about the law.

Battle over Broker Fees

Two lawmakers introduced a bill Thursday to repeal a provision in the health reform law that insurance brokers say could devastate their profession. The bill would reclassify brokers’ commissions so that the commissions wouldn’t count toward insurers’ spending when calculating the companies’ medical loss ratio. The reform law specifies that companies must spend 80 or 85 percent of their revenue on providing medical treatment, and brokers say that insurers will have to slash their pay rates to make the MLR minimum. But supporters of the law say that the business brokers will gain from having more people in the insurance pool will make up the difference. The New York Times explained the debate, and Politico evaluated whether the repeal effort is likely to succeed.

Blue Cross Backs Down in California

Two weeks ago, the NewsHour reported that health insurers proposed rate hikes were sparking outrage in California. On Thursday, Blue Shield of California backed down, and withdrew the rate hike proposal it had sent to state regulators.

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