Democrats Questioning Whether Administration’s Proposal To Allow Increased Access To AHPs Is Legal.
Congressional Quarterly (4/19, Clason, Subscription Publication) reports that congressional Democrats are raising questions about “whether the Department of Labor has the authority to finalize a proposal redefining eligibility for association health plans, which allow small businesses to join forces in purchasing insurance.” The article says the Trump Administration unveiled the proposal, which is “part of a multi-pronged effort by the Trump administration to give consumers” a way to bypass ACA requirements. The piece adds that this type of coverage is “not bound by certain anti-discrimination provisions of the law meant to protect groups like women, seniors and people with preexisting conditions.”
Several States Moving To Stabilize ACA Marketplaces.
Congressional Quarterly (4/19, McIntire, Clason, Subscription Publication) reports, “More states are moving closer this week to pouring funds into their health insurance markets, emphasizing the concern over rising premiums in 2019.” For instance, on Thursday, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) submitted a waiver to receive authorization to create a reinsurance program, and earlier this week, Rhode Island’s insurance commissioner “convened a working group that will spend the next two months considering steps the state could take to stabilize its health insurance markets.” The article says such moves highlight the pressure state officials are facing as they prepare for next year, given that analysts have warned premiums for plans purchased through ACA exchanges will increase significantly.
California Officials Fighting GOP Efforts To Roll Back ACA.
The Los Angeles Times (4/19, Ibarra) reports that California officials “seemingly are not content simply to resist Republican efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.” In an effort to expand healthcare coverage, they are taking “a series of steps they hope will culminate in universal coverage for all Californians – regardless of immigration status and despite potentially monumental price tags.” The article says California “embraced” the ACA “early and eagerly, and has more to lose than any other state if the ACA is dismantled” because some “1.5 million Californians purchase coverage through the state’s Obamacare exchange, Covered California, and 3.8 million have signed up for Medicaid as a result of the program’s expansion under the law.”
Washington State Exchange To Reduce Charges To Insurers Next Year.
The Spokane (WA) Spokesman-Review (4/19, Alexander) reports the Washington Health Benefit Exchange on Thursday announced it will reduce the “the monthly carrier fee from $7.46 per patient to $3.46,” a change that the Spokesman-Review says “could knock a few dollars off the cost of individual health premiums.” The change will affect every 2019 plan sold on Washington Healthplanfinder. Exchange spokesman Ben Spradling said the cuts were possible because of “the record number of people who signed up for an exchange plan in 2018” and some “operational improvements” that lowered expenses.
Public Health and Private Healthcare Systems
Wisconsin Governor Seeks Federal Waiver For Reinsurance Program.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (4/19, Stein) reports that Wisconsin “will pay less than expected and reduce consumer costs within its Obamacare insurance markets by 5% next year, under a plan by Gov. Scott Walker.” The proposal “would use state and federal money to limit losses for insurers who are covering sick patients, allowing health plans to keep their premiums lower than otherwise possible.” The article says this move comes just weeks after Attorney General Brad Schimel sued the federal government, alleging the ACA is unconstitutional.
The BizTimes Milwaukee (4/19, Anderson) reports that Walker, a Republican, is seeking “a federal waiver to operate a state-based reinsurance plan designed to stabilize the state’s individual health insurance market and hold down premiums under the Affordable Care Act.” The article says that after a 44-percent hike in ACA premiums “this year, Walker’s office estimates the $200 million program would lower premiums by 11 percent from what they otherwise would have been, amounting to a 5 percent decrease in premiums compared to 2018.”
Iowa Officials Say Transitional Health Plans Will Remain In Force Through 2019.
The AP (4/19) reports that according to Iowa insurance officials, some 38,000 consumers “who bought health insurance policies after the Affordable Care Act was passed into law but before the state insurance exchanges were set up in 2014 will get to keep those polices for another year.” The article says these “transitional plans have been allowed to continue each year since the ACA…was implemented,” even though they do not meet ACA requirements.
California Legislature Advancing Bills That Would Allow Medi-Cal To Fully Cover Undocumented Immigrants.
The Sacramento (CA) Bee (4/19, Hart) reports that two “health care bills advancing again in the Legislature would grant health care to more than a million immigrants living in California illegally.” The legislation “would expand full-scope Medi-Cal to undocumented adults, allowing an estimated 1.3 million eligible residents to use the state’s low-income health care program for primary and specialty care.” The article says currently, “low-income undocumented adults are covered for very limited services – emergencies and pregnancy-related care.”
Michigan Senate Passes Measure That Would Impose Work Requirements On Medicaid Recipients.
The Detroit Free Press (4/19, Gray) reports that following some heated debate, Michigan’s “full Senate passed legislation Thursday that would require many recipients of Medicaid to be gainfully employed for at least 29 hours a week.” One GOP legislator “said the work requirements were an essential element of keeping viable the Healthy Michigan program, which has 680,000 low-income Michiganders enrolled in an expansion of Medicaid.” However, “Democrats said the legislation was both unneeded and immoral.”
The Detroit News (4/19, Oosting) reports that hundreds of thousands of Medicaid recipients are at risk of losing coverage if they fail to meet the work requirement. The article says the measure “faces a potential roadblock in GOP Gov. Rick Snyder, whose office said the version now headed to the House is ‘neither a reasonable nor responsible change to the state’s social safety net.’”
MLive (MI) (4/19, Lawlor) also covers the story.
Number Of Enrollees In Arkansas’ Medicaid Expansion Program Fell From March 1 To April 1, Data Show.
The Arkansas Democrat Gazette (4/19, Davis) reports that enrollment in Arkansas Works, the state’s Medicaid expansion program, declined “by 3,600 people from March 1 to April 1, the state Department of Human Services” said. Data show that on April 1, there were 281,033 enrollees, compared to 284,670 on March 1, and 285,564 on January 1. DHS added that “the monthly per-person cost for people in the program with subsidized private coverage fell in March by almost $17, to $566.57.”
MACPAC Expresses Doubts About CMS Proposal To Ease Medicaid Monitoring Rules For Some States.
Congressional Quarterly (4/19, Williams, Subscription Publication) reports that on Thursday, the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC), “raised concerns about a recent proposed rule that would exempt some states from having to monitor access to care for certain patients if the vast majority of their Medicaid populations are in managed care.” The article says CMS’ plan “would exempt states where 85 percent or more of Medicaid recipients are in managed care from most requirements to monitor how accessible services are for patients in their fee-for-service programs.” At present, “17 states fit that designation.”
Dems Pushing Public Option Which Would Allow Medicare Buy-In.
Fierce Healthcare (4/19, Stankiewicz) reports that congressional Democrats “are taking another crack at a public option, this time in the form of a Medicare buy-in for employers and individuals on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges.” Although “more coverage options might seem like a positive from a hospital and provider perspective, it could be a double-edge sword financially.” The article says Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced the measure.
Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program Faces Challenges As It Gets Underway.
Kaiser Health News (4/19, Graham) reports that at the beginning of this month, “Medicare launched an initiative to prevent seniors and people with serious disabilities from developing Type 2 diabetes, one of the most common and costly medical conditions in the U.S.” However, the “rollout of the Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program, a major new benefit that could help millions of people, is getting off to a rocky start, according to interviews with nearly a dozen experts.” The article says the new prevention program, which is “a yearlong series of classes about healthy eating, physical activity and behavioral change for people at high risk of developing diabetes – isn’t up and running yet.” In addition, there is “no easy way (no phone number or website) to learn where it’s available.”
Health Care Service Corp. Returns To Profitability Following Three Years Of Losses Related To The ACA.
Modern Healthcare (4/19, Strahler, Subscription Publication) reports that the parent company of “Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Illinois…made more than a billion dollars last year, rebounding after three years of Affordable Care Act-related duress.” Data show Health Care Service Corp.’s 2017 profits “soared more than 10-fold, to $1.26 billion,” which “marks a return to traditional levels and even tops the $1.01 billion reported in 2012, before the impact of” the ACA “took hold.”