Leading the News
Trump Administration Plans To Roll Back Contraception Mandate.
The New York Times (10/5, Pear, Subscription Publication) reports that the Trump Administration could issue new rules as early as Friday which would expand exemptions to the federal requirement that employers include “birth control coverage in their health insurance plans.” The Times says, “More than 55 million women have access to birth control without co-payments because of the contraceptive coverage mandate, according to a study commissioned by the Obama administration.” The new rule would exempt “any employer or insurer that objects to covering contraceptive services ‘based on its sincerely held religious beliefs’” and any employers that have “moral convictions” against covering contraceptives.
The Washington Post (10/5, Wan, Eilperin) reports the measure “will fulfill a crucial promise Trump made as a candidate to appeal to social conservatives and in May when he signed an executive order in the Rose Garden to expand religious liberty.” The Post adds that the new rules are “almost certain to spark fresh litigation.”
California Governor To Decide On Drug Price Legislation.
Kaiser Health News (10/6, Dembosky) reports California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has until October 15 to sign legislation that “would require drug companies to give California 60 days’ notice to state agencies and health insurers anytime they plan to raise the price of a drug by 16 percent or more over two years” and provide an explanation “why the increases are necessary.” Drugmakers spent $16.8 million on lobbying from January 2015 “to kill an array of drug legislation in California, according to data from the secretary of state’s office.” The article examines the efforts to get the bill passed after a similar effort failed last summer.
Minnesota Officials “Blindsided” By Washington, Exploring Alternatives To Save MinnesotaCare.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune (10/5, Howatt) reports Minnesota officials and lawmakers “said this week they are working hard to rescue the MinnesotaCare health insurance program, adding that they were blindsided by a Trump administration decision to cut its federal funding.” The state’s Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper said that the “administration has been promising all throughout 2017 that they want to give states flexibility to innovate and control their own destiny,” but “it just doesn’t feel like that is what they are doing, and that is incredibly frustrating.” The piece adds that state officials are “exploring alternatives.” The Star Tribune says that the US Department of Health and Human Services has “not given a public explanation for the decision” and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services declined to comment on the story to the Star Tribune.
Public Health and Private Healthcare Systems
Trump Intervened In Iowa ACA Request As Administration Cuts Federal Support Of The Law.
In a front-page story, the Washington Post (10/5, A1, Eilperin) reports that President Trump directly weighed in on Iowa’s Section 1332 waiver request to implement a “stopgap measure” aimed at revitalizing its “ailing health-insurance marketplace.” The Post reports that Trump “read about the request in a newspaper story,” called then-Secretary of HHS Tom Price who was traveling in Asia and unavailable, and then the “president called Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency charged with authorizing or rejecting Section 1332 applications.” “Trump’s message was clear, according to individuals who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations: Tell Iowa no.” The president’s “highly unusual intervention” in the Iowa waiver process comes amid claims from ACA advocates that the Administration “has done more to suppress the number of people signing up” for ACA plans “than to boost it.”
The New York Daily News (10/6, Chia) reports “The waiver, along with the proposed ‘Stopgap Measure,’ offered a short term solution that would help keep 18,000 to 22,000 Iowans insured, while keeping premium costs down, according to” a letter from Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R). The Daily News adds that some Republicans are pushing for the waiver to be granted. A spokesperson for the HHS told the Washington Post that Iowa’s application “has been deemed complete and is currently under review.”
Also covering the story is The Hill (10/5, Manchester).
Pennsylvania Governor To Veto Medicaid Work Requirement Legislation.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (10/5, Giammarise) reports Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) will veto legislation passed by the Republican-controlled state House and Senate which would require a “work-search requirement in the Medicaid program.” Republicans included the provision in a budget-related bill, as negotiations for larger agreement on an overdue state budget failed Wednesday. A statement from Gov. Wolf’s spokesman read, “For months, Governor Wolf has voiced his strong opposition to these backdoor Medicaid changes that could have widespread and potentially life-changing effects on the health and well-being of millions of Pennsylvanians. Seniors, people with disabilities, individuals suffering from substance use disorder, and low-income working families don’t need their lives to be made even more difficult by politicians in Harrisburg.”
Missouri Democrats Proposes Several Healthcare Reforms.
The Southeast Missourian (10/5, Graef) reports the Missouri Democratic Party outlined proposals to establish a Medicaid buy-in option for all state residents, monitor prescription drugs more effectively, lower drug prices, and increase access to health care. Chairman Stephen Webber pointed out that Nevada passed a Medicaid buy-in bill, but the governor vetoed it.
Highmark To Raise Premiums For ACA Plans Offered Through Delaware’s Exchange By 25 Percent.
The Wilmington (DE) News Journal (10/5, Newman) reports Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield will continue to offer ACA plans through Delaware’s exchange in 2018, but the insurer will raise rates by 25 percent. The company had actually requested an increase of 33.6 percent in June, but state insurance regulators reduced the figure. The article adds that Highmark will be the only ACA option for Delaware residents, since Aetna Inc. decided to exit the state’s marketplace.
The AP (10/5, Chase) also covers the story.
Bismarck Area Expected To Be Most Impacted By Medica’s Exit From North Dakota’s ACA Marketplace.
The Bismarck (ND) Tribune (10/5, Holdman) reports that health insurer Medica will exit North Dakota’s ACA marketplace in 2018, and the Bismarck area will be “most heavily affected.” The article says 3,073 people in North Dakota bought Medica plans through the state’s ACA exchange. Data indicate about 90 percent of them were from Bismarck.