More Than 600,000 Americans Enrolled In ACA Healthcare Plans In First Four Days, CMS Says.
The Washington Post (11/9, Eilperin, Goldstein) reports the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Wednesday reported that 601,462 Americans enrolled in health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act from November 1-4, the start of open enrollment. The Post says it is “a brisk start despite Republicans’ efforts to dismantle the law,” and adds that 22 percent or 137,322 “were new enrollees.” Last year, “just over 1 million” enrolled in the first 12 days, with 24 percent being new enrollees. The Post adds that the CMS figures do not include enrollees from states that have their own exchanges, though those have been reporting “an increase in both enrollment and inquiries at their call centers.”
USA Today (11/9, O’Donnell) reports people “are flocking to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges…setting a record in the first few days of open enrollment,” with enrollment “up 79% for the first few days Healthcare.gov was open,” over last year.
The Wall Street Journal (11/9, Mathews, Subscription Publication) reports insurance companies also said sign-ups were up compared to last year, but added that early results are not guaranteed to continue through the period.
Legislation and Policy
FDA Pushing Initiative To Prioritize Generic Approvals.
Bloomberg News (11/9, Edney) reports the FDA is working to prioritize the approval of generic drug applications to mitigate medication costs, saying in a policy document released Thursday that it will promote an incentive for drug makers that are the first to apply for approval of generics for brand-name drugs. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said, “Soon after the 180-day exclusivity period lapses, consumers can have the benefit of brisk competition from multiple other generic entrants. This can improve affordability and access to important drugs.” He also “pledged in June to clear the logjam in a year,” and “has said the FDA will prioritize clearing new versions of drugs with fewer than three generic options.”
Public Health and Private Healthcare Systems
“Bronze” Plans May Be More Expensive Than “Silver” Plans For Some.
The Charlotte (NC) Observer (11/9, Cope, Murawski) reports on “Bronze” plans under the ACA, which offer insurance with “no monthly premiums,” but may have deductibles of “more than $10,000.” The Observer adds that a “Silver” plan with a smaller deductible could be cheaper as the maximum out-of-pocket cost for a bronze plan could exceed that of a silver plan by more than the premiums, so that “families could save thousands” with the more expensive plan.
Anthem Changes Policy On Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy Drug.
Reuters (11/9, Humer) reports Anthem has changed its policy on Sarepta Therapeutics’ Exondys51 (eteplirsen) so that “medically necessary” use will be covered. The article explains that previously Anthem required patients to receive special authorization in order for the cost of the drug to be covered.
Humana Seeking To Fill Positions Despite Layoffs.
The Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal (11/9, Schneider) reports Humana is looking to fill 448 openings across the country, “despite plans to shed nearly 2,500 jobs in the next month or two.” The Louisville-based company this week confirmed “before releasing quarterly results that 1,150 employees had accepted voluntary early retirement packages and another 1,300 people across the company would be laid off by early next year.” According to executives, “the goal is to increase productivity and trim expenses headed into 2018 while estimating that they’d save ‘hundreds of millions of dollars’ by cutting nearly 6 percent of its payroll.”
New Hampshire Medicaid Expansion Commission Recommends Extension, Major Changes.
The New Hampshire Union Leader (11/8, Solomon) reports that the New Hampshire commission charged with recommending options for the Medicaid expansion program in the state agreed to the content of its report Wednesday. The Commission to Evaluate the Effectiveness and Future of the Premium Assistance Program urges lawmakers to extend the program for another five years and calls “for expanded Medicaid recipients to obtain coverage through one of the managed-care companies now handling traditional Medicaid, instead of turning to the Obamacare exchange at healthcare.gov to purchase policies with premium subsidies.” The report also recommends other changes such as a work requirement on adults without children and increased reimbursement rates for mental health and substance abuse services.
Iowa Governor Candidates Agree To Replace Privately Managed Medicaid With State-Run System.
The Quad-City (IA) Times (11/9, Boshart) reports six Iowa gubernatorial candidates agreed Thursday that “they would repeal privately managed Medicaid and replace it with a state-run system offering quality, reliable services and paying Iowa providers on time.” Four Democrats – Andy McGuire, Cathy Glasson, Jon Neiderbach, and John Norris – and two Republicans – Ron Corbett and Steven Ray – appeared at the Rebalancing Health Care in the Heartland forum. All of the candidates seeking to unseat Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) also “questioned whether the switch to a privately managed $5 billion Medicaid system in April 2016 actually has saved money.” Reynolds and Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg were invited to the forum but could not attend.
Also in the News
Report Says Growth Rate Of Healthcare Prices Near-Historic Low.
Modern Healthcare (11/9, Castellucci, Subscription Publication) reports that healthcare prices increased just 1.1 percent year-over-year through September, a rate that “was just slightly higher than the all-time low growth rate of 0.9% in December 2015,” according to a report from Altarum. Modern Healthcare says, “The small increase in healthcare prices was likely due in large part to a decline in prescription drug prices, according to the report.” The reduced growth rates could also be attributable to increased usage of generic drugs, continuing low payments for hospital admissions by Medicare, and more “movement from inpatient care at hospitals to outpatient settings.”