Leading the News
ACA Repeal-Only Proposal Fails In Senate.
On its front page, the New York Times (7/26, A1, Kaplan, Subscription Publication) reports that on Wednesday, the Senate “soundly rejected a measure that would repeal major parts of the Affordable Care Act without providing a replacement, leaving Republicans still searching for a path forward to fulfill their promise of dismantling” the Affordable Care Act. The Times says this “rejection of ‘clean repeal’ laid bare the deep divisions within the Republican caucus about how best to proceed.” In light of this defeat, Senate Republicans seemed “increasingly likely to try to pass a modest measure that would repeal only a few provisions of the law, such as the tax on medical devices and the requirements that most individuals have insurance and that large employers offer coverage to workers.”
The Washington Post 7/26, A1, Snell, Eilperin, Sullivan) reports on its front page that this bill would have given Republicans two years to devise a viable alternative to the ACA. The article says this was the second time in 24 hours that senators “rejected different approaches to rewriting the landmark 2010 law.”
USA Today (7/26, Kelly, Collins) reports that the vote represents a “failed attempt to pass the amendment by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., to repeal the Affordable Care Act within two years, which would have given lawmakers time to come up with a replacement plan before the law expired.” The article adds that this bill is the same one which Congress passed in 2015 to repeal the ACA, but which President Obama vetoed.
On its front page, the Wall Street Journal (7/26, A1, Peterson, Subscription Publication) reports 49 of the 52 GOP senators currently in Congress voted to repeal the ACA in 2015. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) is the only one who voted against the measure at the time. The article adds that many GOP senators have indicated they do not advocate repealing the ACA without a viable replacement because this would hurt consumers and wreak havoc in insurance marketplaces.
Legislation and Policy
Insurers Pressuring Federal Government To Continue Funding Cost-Sharing Subsidies.
The AP(7/26, Murphy) reports insurers are pressuring the federal government to continue funding cost-sharing payments that reimburse insurers for providing coverage to certain low-income customers. The article explains that the payments have been challenged in court and that the Trump Administration has not guaranteed that the payments will continue after this month. The CEOs of Anthem and Centene, which both sell health plans on the exchanges, have warned that discontinuing the payments could hurt consumers.
Anthem CEO Says Insurer Will Withdraw From More ACA Exchanges Unless Federal Government Intervenes.USA Today (7/26, Groppe) reports Anthem CEO Joseph Swedish said the insurer would withdraw from more ACA exchanges if the federal government doesn’t stabilize the insurance market. The article points out that Anthem has already withdrawn from the exchanges for three states and is facing uncertainty over whether the federal government will continue funding for cost-sharing subsidies, which reimburse insurers for covering certain customers.
Modern Healthcare (7/26, Livingston, Subscription Publication) reports Swedish said, “There are still many areas of marketplace uncertainty – principally, cost-sharing reduction subsidy funding – that make it challenging to be comfortable with the level of predictability of a sustainable marketplace. If we aren’t able to gain certainty on some of these items quickly, we do expect that we will need to revise our rate filings to further narrow our level of participation.”
Meanwhile, Reuters (7/26, Humer) reports Anthem reported better-than-expected quarterly profits, which were boosted “by higher enrollment and a rise in premium rates.” Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/26, Tracer) also covers the story.
CBO Estimates 16 Million More Uninsured People Under “Skinny Repeal” Plan.
The Hill 7/26, Weixel) reports that according to Congressional Budget Office estimates released by Senate Democrats, repealing the ACA’s individual and employer mandates would result in 16 million additional people without insurance by 2021. “It’s widely believed the skinny bill would repeal ObamaCare’s individual and employer mandates,” but the final version has not been released yet. Democrats also asked CBO to score the impact of defunding Planned Parenthood, the repeal of the ACA’s Prevention and Public Health Fund, and the repeal of the Community Health Center Fund.
The Washington Examiner (7/26) reports that according to CBO, “the deficit over the next decade would fall by $130 billion,” while the number of people uninsured would grow from 28 million under the current law to 44 million under the so-called “skinny” Obamacare repeal plan.
House Republicans Skeptical About Possible Senate “Skinny Repeal” Of ACA. The Washington Post (7/26, Debonis) reports Senate Republicans’ scaled back ACA “skinny repeal” plan has lawmakers “skeptical that the differences between the two chambers can ever be bridged.” Rather than undo the ACA’s insurance regulations and Medicaid expansion, “senators could settle for an effort to simply undo the law’s coverage mandates and one relatively minor tax,” but House Republicans “are saying ‘fat chance’ to the skinny repeal — including key members on the conservative and moderate ends of the GOP.”
The San Francisco Chronicle (7/26, Lochhead) reports Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price described the “skinny repeal” approach as finding the “lowest common denominator” of what Senate Republicans can pass with the 50 votes they need. Such a bill, still unwritten, “would provide a legislative vehicle to enter negotiations with the House on a potentially much larger repeal bill, analysts said.”
Politico (7/26, Bresnahan, Haberkorn) reports House Republicans “privately worry that a number of vulnerable House Republicans have already taken tough votes…that their Senate GOP colleagues refuse to support,” exposing those House members to “serious political jeopardy in November 2018.” Conservative House Republicans “all but axed the idea of endorsing a Senate-passed skinny repeal bill,” but said they’re open to conferencing with the Senate to find middle ground.
Blue Cross Blue Shield Association Warns Against Lack Of Coverage Mandate in Senate’s “Skinny Repeal” Option. The Wall Street Journal (7/26, Armour, Mathews, Hackman, Subscription Publication) reports health insurers strongly oppose a so-called skinny repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s coverage mandate without measures aimed at stabilizing the law’s insurance exchanges. The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association said in a statement that it is critical that any legislation include strong incentives for people to obtain and keep health insurance.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (7/26, Hart) reports Blue Cross Blue Shield “laid out the business case for the mandate” and said that “immediate funding for the cost-sharing reduction program also is essential to help those individuals most in need with their out-of-pocket costs, so they can access medical services.”
Johnson Amendment Would Eliminate Federal Funding For Lawmakers’ Health Insurance.
Roll Call (7/26, Lesniewski) reports Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) wants to revive “a proposal to strip federal contributions for lawmakers’ health insurance on the exchanges set up by” the Affordable Care Act. He filed an amendment on the issue on Tuesday. The article says it seems likely that the amendment will “need 60 votes to advance through the Senate under the expedited process, because it could be subject to a budget point of order related to committee jurisdiction over laws affecting Washington, D.C.”
Public Health and Private Healthcare Systems
Massachusetts Legislature Rejects Part Of Governor’s Proposal To Control Medicaid Costs By Moving Some People Off The Program.
The Boston Globe (7/26, McCluskey) reports Massachusetts state legislators continue to resist Governor Charlie Baker’s plans to address the state’s rising health care costs “in part by moving some poor adults off of the state’s health care safety net program.” Democrats in the state legislature did approve Baker’s proposal to raise $200 million in additional revenue for the state’s Medicaid program through a tax on employers, but they rejected the measure’s complimentary budget cut proposals. Baker has not indicated whether he will accept or veto the tax measure on its own.
Illinois Pays $740M To Medicaid Managed Care Organizations, Still Has $3.5B In Outstanding Bills.
The Chicago Tribune (7/26, Schencker) reports the Illinois state government announced this week it paid $740 million in outstanding payments to Medicaid managed care organizations, though it still owes those groups an additional $3.5 billion. According to the Tribune, “The distribution followed state lawmakers’ passage of a budget earlier this month and a federal judge’s order last month that the state pay at least $586 million to the organizations in July.” Comptroller’s office spokesperson Jamey Dunn said the state would have been unable to pay the $740 million without the new budget.
Arkansas Proposes Regulations To Extend Medicaid Coverage To Marshallese Children, Immigrant Children Who Have Been In State Fewer Than Five Years.
The Arkansas Democrat Gazette (7/26, Davis) reports the Arkansas Department of Human Services proposed regulations to take effect on January 1 would extend Medicaid coverage “to about 2,000 Marshallese children from low-income families, as well as a smaller number of non-Marshallese immigrants who have been in the country for fewer than five years.” Arkansas is home to the largest Marshallese population in the continental US, and Governor Asa Hutchinson supports the proposal, saying the state is “very proud of the relationship that” they have with their Marshallese population.