Administration’s Effort To Impose Work Requirements On Recipients Of Federal Benefits Encounters Obstacles.
The New York Times (3/15, Thrush, Subscription Publication) reports that while President Trump said during his State of the Union address that he favors “a plan to force recipients off federal housing vouchers, food assistance and Medicaid if they were not willing to do ‘a hard day’s work,’” the effort “faces an uncertain future.” According to “three senior administration officials,” a “sweeping executive order mandating that federal agencies review safety net programs with an eye toward cutting their rolls, has been delayed indefinitely.” The article says disagreements among Republicans “over how to proceed, Mr. Trump’s own ambivalence – and the absence of any proof that the approach will achieve its intended goal of reducing dependency on federal programs – have resulted in a scattershot process that lacks the coherence and force of previous efforts at overhaul.”
Appeals Court Could Soon Rule On Suit Over ACA Risk Corridors Program.
The Wall Street Journal (3/15, Armour, Subscription Publication) reports that the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit could soon rule on whether the government has to pay insurers billions of dollars they say they were promised under the ACA’s risk corridors program. The decision will resolve conflicting rulings from lower court judges, and could impact the outcome of other insurer suits that could cost the government as much as $20 billion.
California Coalition Pushing Bills That Aim To Expand Healthcare Access, Affordability.
The Los Angeles Times (3/15, Mason) reports that on Thursday, “a coalition of influential interest groups announced a new legislative push…for a patchwork of measures that aim to make healthcare in California cheaper and more accessible.” The article says supporters touted several “proposals, including expanding Medi-Cal access to adults without legal status and increasing subsidies to those buying insurance on the Covered California exchange, as priorities for this legislative session.” The piece mentions that the groups aim to build on gains achieved by the ACA.
Opinion: Insurers Should Be Permitted To Offer Insurance Plans That Do Not Comply With ACA.
Phil Gramm, former chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, writes in the Wall Street Journal (3/15, Subscription Publication) that the elimination of the tax penalty for not having insurance was the first step in freeing Americans from the Affordable Care Act, and the next step is to permit insurers to offer insurance plans independent of the requirements of the law, as Idaho has done.
Public Health and Private Healthcare Systems
CMS Seeking Comments About How To Improve Care For Dual Eligibles.
Modern Healthcare (3/15, Dickson, Subscription Publication) reports that CMS wants “Medicare Advantage and prescription drug plans, advocates and health policy insiders” to provide “suggestions on how to improve the care experience for people that are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid.” In particular, the agency wants “feedback about how to develop unified grievance and appeals processes for those enrolled in Dual Eligible Special Need Plans (D-SNPs) and establish new standards for integration for people in such plans.” Comments will be accepted through April 12.
MACPAC Wants Congress To Give States Authority To Implement Medicaid Managed Care Without Submitting Waiver Requests.
Congressional Quarterly (3/15, Williams, Subscription Publication) reports that on Thursday, the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission said Congress should allow states “to require people on the government insurance program to enroll in managed care without having to first ask federal officials for special permission to do so.” At present, “such a change requires what is known as a waiver, which allows a state to experiment with new ways of operating Medicaid not usually allowed by federal law.”
Clinics Would Struggle To Absorb Planned Parenthood’s Patient Load If It Is Excluded From Medicaid, Survey Suggests.
Congressional Quarterly (3/15, Raman, Subscription Publication) reports a recent “nationwide survey ” conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and George Washington University suggests “that less than one in five” community health centers “would be able to increase their patient load by 25 percent or more in the next year,” which would be a likely requirement “if Planned Parenthood is excluded from Medicaid or the federal family planning program.” According to investigators, “this survey suggests that these health centers may not have the capacity to fill the void if Planned Parenthood were excluded as a Medicaid or Title X provider.”
Senators, Drug Makers Debate 340B Program During Hearing.
Congressional Quarterly (3/15, Siddons, Subscription Publication) reports that at a US Senate hearing Thursday, pharmaceutical industry members expressed their concerns about “the so-called 340B program,” which “is in the cross hairs of” drug makers who believe the discounts to hospitals force manufacturers “to drive up prices for others.” The program’s hospitals “have widespread popularity in Congress,” but “some lawmakers are skeptical” they benefit patients. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) took an “aggressive” tone in his questioning of hospitals, accusing “bad actors” of abusing the program. Meanwhile Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) “implored the drug industry to advocate ‘as strongly for transparency in the pricing of their own members’ products as they have advocated for transparency in 340B.’”
Verma, Other Administration Officials Meet With Idaho To Discuss Proposal That Would Skirt ACA Rules.
The Hill (3/15, Sullivan) reports that on Wednesday, CMS Administrator Seema Verma and other Trump Administration officials met with Idaho officials in an effort “to find a path forward on the state’s controversial plan to skirt ObamaCare rules.” Last week, the Administration rebuked Idaho over its plan to allow healthcare coverage which does not meet ACA requirements. The article says that according to Idaho insurance commissioner Dean Cameron, “Verma again suggested that the state could go a different route and promote cheaper, skimpier plans that are legal and touted by the Trump administration, known as short-term plans.”
The AP (3/15) reports that Idaho Lt. Gov. Brad Little, who attended the meeting in Washington, DC, “said he has a better understanding of the federal government’s position after being told the state’s move to let companies offer health insurance plans that don’t meet Affordable Care Act standards is illegal.” He added, “Moving forward, I am very optimistic that we can work together with the Trump Administration to implement an Idaho-based solution for health care that works for Idahoans and fulfills the goals of Idaho’s executive order.”
Healthcare Advocates Urge Idaho Legislators To Expand Medicaid. The AP (3/15) reports that dozens of healthcare advocates “held a rally at the Idaho Capitol asking lawmakers to address the state’s uninsured population.” They want legislators to pass a bill that would allow about 35,000 Idahoans to become eligible for expanded Medicaid coverage.
Louisiana Officials To Notify 60,000 Medicaid Recipients That They Will Lose Benefits.
The New Orleans Times-Picayune (3/15, Sheehan) reports Louisiana officials will notify 60,000 elderly or disabled people “in early May” that they will lose their Medicaid benefits as of July 1 because of the Legislature’s “stalemate over the state budget and taxes.” Gov. John Bel Edwards proposed eliminating some Medicaid programs in order to address a $994 million budget deficit and must notify those affected 60-days in advance of July 1. The Legislature “will try to avoid Medicaid cuts by shifting around state money or approving new taxes, but those solutions won’t be in place until mid-May at the earliest.” Those who may lose coverage include 46,000 Medicaid recipients “who qualify for long-term care in a nursing home or at their personal residence, but also have some personal income in spite of their disability.”
Virginia GOP Legislators At Odds Over Medicaid Expansion.
The AP (3/15, Suderman) reports that Republican legislators in Virginia are at odds over a plan to expand Medicaid, and this “stalemate…has blocked passage of the state budget and threatens a potential government shutdown.” The article adds, however, that “at a deeper level, the battle is over whether Republicans should embrace more liberal policies as a way of blunting voter unhappiness with the president in an increasingly Democratic-leaning state.” The piece adds that similar battles “could be coming to statehouses around the country, just as Virginia’s dramatic off-year election last year could be a preview of this year’s contests.”