Bipartisan Bill To Stabilize ACA Marketplaces Gains 24 Sponsors.
The AP (10/19, Werner, Fram) reports that on Thursday, the bipartisan bill which seeks to stabilize ACA marketplaces “gained momentum…when enough lawmakers rallied behind it to give it potentially unstoppable Senate support.” The measure’s sponsors, Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA), “appeared together on the Senate floor to announce 24 sponsors, divided evenly between both parties, for resuming federal subsidies to insurers that [President] Trump has blocked.” The article says Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) indicated all 48 Senate Democrats would vote for the bill, and that number, combined with 12 GOP sponsors, would give the measure 60 votes, enough to defeat a filibuster.
The Washington Post (10/19, Eilperin, Sullivan) reports that on Thursday, Democrats in the Senate “pressed…to advance a bipartisan bill that would preserve subsidies for low-income Americans under the Affordable Care Act amid a new show of cooperation, even as Republican leaders suggested that they would need greater concessions before bringing it up for a vote.” Alexander warned that conservatives who refuse to support the bill “were ignoring the ‘chaos’ that could ensue if the federal government did not provide the cost-sharing reduction payments that Trump cut off this month.” Meanwhile, Murray insisted “Congress would ultimately pass the measure because Americans are beginning to grasp that the impasse in Washington has translated into higher insurance rates for 2018.”
USA Today (10/19, Collins, Groppe) reports that the authors of the last Senate effort to repeal the ACA, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), joined the group of co-sponsors of the bill.
Legislation and Policy
Senate, House Dems Introduce Bill To Reverse Trump Administration’s Roll Back Of ACA’s Contraception Mandate.
The Hill (10/19, Hellmann) reports that 19 Democrats in the Senate “have signed on to a bill that would reverse the Trump administration’s new exemption for ObamaCare’s birth control mandate.” Recently, the Trump Administration “announced it will allow most employers to stop providing birth control coverage in their insurance plans if they have moral or religious objections.” But Democrats warn this “move endangers birth control coverage for millions of women, including those who are prescribed contraceptives for health reasons.”
The Huffington Post (10/19) reports that both House and Senate Democrats support the bill, called the “Protect Access to Birth Control Act.” Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) stated, “The president’s recent move to roll back the Affordable Care Act provision that has allowed women to access birth control with no out-of-pocket costs ignores the reality that birth control is health care. … The legislation we are introducing today would prevent the president’s interim final rules from having any force of law.”
Ending ACA Subsidy Payments To Insurers May Result In More Consumers Obtaining Free Coverage, Experts Say.
The AP (10/19, Alonso-Zaldivar) reports that if President Trump succeeds in ending ACA subsidy payments to insurers, “it would have the unintended consequence of making free basic coverage available to more people, and making upper-tier plans more affordable,” according to healthcare experts. That is because “another of the health law’s subsidies would go up for people with low-to-moderate incomes, offsetting Trump’s move.” Some experts suggest “more consumers would sign up for coverage next year even though Trump says the Affordable Care Act is ‘virtually dead.’”
More Middle-Class Americans Worried Trump’s Efforts To Weaken ACA Will Result In Significantly Higher Premiums.
Reuters (10/19, Reid, Abutaleb) reports there are growing concerns “among middle-class Democrats and Republicans that their health insurance costs will soar as” President Trump weakens the ACA, “which extended insurance to more than 20 million Americans.” The article says a 63-year-old Pennsylvania man who voted for Trump stated, “It seems like he is trying to hurt the middle class.” This consumer added that Trump had promised to improve things for all Americans, but making decisions which result in higher premiums contradicts the President’s stated goal.
Public Health and Private Healthcare Systems
Louisiana Considers Extending Medicaid Contracts.
The AP (10/19, Deslatte) reports Louisiana’s health department is proposing to extend the state Medicaid contracts with five managed care companies for another two years. The joint House and Senate Budget Committee will consider the proposals Friday, and the extensions are expected to cost $15 billion in federal and state funding. Department officials said that the extensions also come with “more accountability and new incentives aimed at improving health quality.”
New Hampshire Changes Rules To Allow Medicaid Funds To Be Used For Gender Reassignment Surgeries.
The Concord (NH) Monitor (10/19, DeWitt) reports legislators on New Hampshire’s administrative rules committee approved a change Thursday that will allow the state’s Medicaid funds to pay for gender reassignment surgery. The change was submitted by the state Department of Health and Human Services and “will allow Medicaid recipients in the state’s managed-care program to receive funding for surgery on a case-by-case basis, determined by the state provider based on ‘medical necessity.’” DHHS Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers said, “We believe we are acting in response to a law enacted by Congress that prohibits discrimination.”
Some Massachusetts Exchange Plan Premiums To Increase By 24%.
The Boston Globe (10/19, McCluskey) reports that insurance premiums for consumers who purchase certain plans on Massachusetts’ Health Connector “will rise 24 percent next year because the Trump administration has promised to pull critical federal payments that subsidize coverage, state officials said Thursday.” Last week, officials said they anticipated rates would increase by about 8.7 percent for 2018. Yet, President Trump’s announcement about ending ACA subsidy payments to insurers compelled them to revisit the issue. The AP (10/19, Leblanc) reports that a spokesman for the state’s ACA exchange “says the higher [rates] could be felt by up to 80,000 people during the open enrollment period beginning Nov. 1.”
Rhode Island Officials Expect Increases Of 13.5% To 20.3% For Exchange Plans. The Providence (RI) Business News (10/19, Borkowski) reports that Rhode Island’s insurance regulators anticipate rates for ACA plans sold through the state’s exchange will rise “between 13.5 percent and 20.3 percent over 2017 due to President Donald Trump’s executive order canceling Cost Sharing Reduction subsidies.” Data show some 45,000 Rhode Islanders purchase individual plans, and the “elimination of CSRs is expected to impact the entire individual health plan market.”
Anthem-CVS Partnership Raises Questions For Aetna, Analysts Say.
Fierce Healthcare (10/19, Small) reports that Anthem’s plans “to launch its own pharmacy benefits manager will not only alter the PBM landscape, it will also likely impact” Aetna, who has “a long-term PBM contract with CVS Health, which will come up for renewal in 2020–the same year that CVS’ newly announced contract with Anthem will take effect.” An analyst for Leerink Partners said that Anthem would likely bring more prescription volume to CVS and that the “speculated merger between CVS and [Aetna] is unlikely at this point.”
Also in the News
ACA Expanded Health Insurance Coverage For Americans With Cancer, Research Indicates.
The Los Angeles Times (10/19, Kaplan) reports in “Science Now” that research published in JAMA Oncology indicates the Affordable Care Act “succeeded in expanding health insurance coverage for Americans with cancer.”
HealthDay (10/19, Preidt) reports that investigators looked at “data on more than 858,000 adults aged 19 to 64 with a first-time cancer diagnosis.” The researchers found that “the uninsured rate fell from just over 5.7 percent between 2010-2013 to about 3.8 percent in 2014, when the ACA health insurance exchanges and Medicaid expansion went into effect.” The data also indicated “increases in coverage occurred for people with numerous types of cancer, those with early- and late-stage disease, and among different ethnic/racial groups.” Cancer Therapy Advisor (10/19, Nam) also covers the story.