House To Vote On Children’s Health Insurance Program Funding Next Week.
The Hill (10/26, Hellmann) reports the House of Representatives plans to vote on legislation that would extend funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) next week. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) made the announcement Thursday and added, “The reason why we’re bringing it up next week is not because next week was the date we wanted to. We wanted to get this done long ago, but the reason why we’re doing it next week is because Minnesota’s about to run out of money.” The Hill explains that “Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) delayed sending the bill to the floor for a vote to continue negotiations with Democrats on offsets,” but McCarthy said that he found out Wednesday that “Democrats said they don’t want to do anything and we should just go forward.”
Roll Call (10/26, Raman) reports that “arguments erupted on the House floor Thursday” over the vote next week on a “GOP-only bill to renew funding.” Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) argued, “CHIP and community health centers, as the majority leader pointed out, have always been a bipartisan priority. Unfortunately, this bill did not come out of the committee as a bipartisan bill.”
Public Health and Private Healthcare Systems
CVS Negotiating Purchase Of Aetna For More Than $66 Billion, Sources Say.
On its front page, the Wall Street Journal (10/26, Mattioli, Subscription Publication) cites unnamed sources as indicating CVS Health is in talks to buy Aetna for more than $66 billion, or $200 per share.
Reuters (10/26, O’Donnell) cites a source as indicating “CVS made the offer earlier this month, although the two companies have been in discussions about a potential deal for at least two months” with “no certainty that an agreement will be reached.” Reuters says “Aetna shares rose more than 11 percent” on the news, while CVS shares fell three percent. Both CVS and Aetna declined to comment.
Arizona Supreme Court Hears Medicaid Expansion Appeal.
The AP (10/26, Christie) reports that Arizona’s hospital assessment that brought in $265 million last year to help pay for the state’s Medicaid expansion plan that covers an additional 400,000 residents is now “in the hands of the Arizona Supreme Court” following a hearing Thursday. The assessment is being challenged by the Goldwater Institute – representing Republican lawmakers – who “said any increase in revenues, whether a tax, fee or assessment, triggered the supermajority requirement” in order to pass, not a simple majority. Arizona’s Medicaid agency counters that the assessment is legal under an exemption for fees set by state agencies. The Court of Appeals previously upheld the assessment.
The Arizona Republic (10/26, Alltucker) reports Timothy Berg, the attorney representing Arizona and the Medicaid program, said, “This is an important decision” because “it is important for the 400,000 people who receive health care” and “because this court has never spoken on Proposition 108,” the law passed by voters in 1992 which requires supermajorities to raise taxes.
Kentucky Officials Expect Feds Will Approve Medicaid Request.
The AP (10/26, Beam) reports Kentucky officials expect the Trump Administration to approve its pending application to “overhaul the state’s Medicaid program.” The state wants to require “Medicaid recipients to have a job or perform some type of community service in order to keep their health coverage.” Gov. Matt Bevin (R) “says it would put more people to work, eventually reducing the number of people on Medicaid and saving the state money.” Since Medicaid expansion in 2014, Kentucky’s costs have increased $467 million and, under the plan, Medicaid rolls would have 95,000 fewer recipients by 2021.
CMS Administrator Describes Plan To Change Medicaid.
STAT (10/26, Ross) reports Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Seema Verma drew “the outlines of sweeping changes to Medicaid that could pare enrollments and cut costs without congressional approval” during an appearance at the Cleveland Clinic’s annual medical innovation summit this week. Verma said that she plans to make “the whole waiver process easier” so that states have an “unprecedented level of flexibility.” She also raised the idea of a “Medicaid scorecard” to measure states’ performance and spoke in favor of Congress putting Medicaid on a budget, explaining that “We want to make sure we have a stable program over the long term and make sure that there’s some type of a growth rate that we can all agree to.”
Anthem Says It Could Break Even On ACA Plans.
The USA Today (10/26, Groppe) reports that Anthem CEO Joseph Swedish said Wednesday in a call with investors that the insurer could “relatively break even” on its Affordable Care Act marketplace segment this year. Swedish cautioned, “Additional regulatory clarity is required for us to fully understand the financial impact of ending (cost-sharing reduction) subsidies,” and that uncertainty over those subsidies was one reason the company scaled back its participation in the markets this year. Anthem covered 1.4 million on the exchanges this year and expects that number to drop by 70 percent next year.
Massachusetts Governor To Use State Fund To Continue Paying CSRs For The Rest Of The Year.
The Lowell (MA) Sun (10/26, Murphy) reports Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) is planning to use the Commonwealth Care Trust Fund “to continue making” cost sharing reduction payments (CSRs) to insurers for the rest of the year. The article reports that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services rejected Baker’s “request for a waiver that would have allowed the state to set up a fund to use federal dollars to stabilize premiums.”
Sanford Health Plan To Continue Offering Plans On North Dakota Exchange In Select Areas.
The AP (10/26, Nicholson) reports North Dakota Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread announced that Sanford Health Plan will continue offering health plans for people who live in the counties of Burleigh, Cass, Morton, Oliver, and Traill. The article reports that Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota is raising its rates for next year, while Medica has decided to withdraw from the state’s exchange.
Also in the News
Trump Declares Opioid Epidemic A “Public Health Emergency.”
The Washington Post (10/26, Wagner, Bernstein, Johnson) reports that yesterday, “President Trump…called the nation’s opioid epidemic the ‘worst drug crisis in American history,’ saying his administration is declaring it a public health emergency and putting its full resolve into overcoming the widespread scourge.” But “the announcement…fell well short of what many health advocates had urged and was roundly criticized by Democratic lawmakers, particularly for what they said is insufficient funding to truly address a crisis claiming an estimated 100 lives or more per day.”
The New York Times (10/26, Davis, Subscription Publication) reports the President said the effort would include using Medicaid funds, and “a new federal initiative to develop nonaddictive painkillers,” as well as what he called “really tough, really big, really great advertising.” The Times adds, “it is unclear how much impact the public health declaration will have in the short term.” Still, supporters, “including some anti-addiction groups and physicians, contend Mr. Trump’s action is an important symbolic step.”