Trump To End Cost-Sharing Reduction Subsidies.
On its front page, the Washington Post (10/13, A1, Goldstein, Eilperin) reports that the White House confirmed Thursday that it will stop making federal payments for “cost-sharing reductions,” payments to health insurers “that help millions of lower-income Americans afford coverage.” A statement from the Department of Health and Human Services confirmed that the “cutoff would be immediate.” The Post reports that “insurers have said that stopping the cost-sharing payments would be the single greatest step the Trump administration could take to damage the marketplaces – and the law.”
The Wall Street Journal (10/12, Armour, Subscription Publication) reports that President Trump told at least one lawmaker that the subsidy payments would continue if a bipartisan agreement is reached on healthcare legislation.
The AP (10/13, Thomas, Lucey) reports that leading Republicans have called for “continuing the payments to insurers, at least temporarily, so constituents maintain access to health insurance,” and Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) have been working on legislation to do that, “though they differ over how long these subsidies should be guaranteed.”
Legislation and Policy
Trump Signs Executive Order That Would Roll Back Some ACA Provisions.
On its front page, the New York Times (10/12, A1, Pear, Abelson, Subscription Publication) reports that on Thursday, President Trump signed an executive order which “clears the way for potentially sweeping changes in health insurance, including sales of cheaper policies with fewer benefits and fewer protections for consumers than those mandated under the Affordable Care Act.”
NBC Nightly News (10/12, story 7, 1:55, Holt) reported the President is “beginning to dismantle his predecessor’s signature achievement by unveiling plans…to allow small businesses and individuals to buy insurance that does not meet the minimum” ACA “requirements. But there are critics who say it will only drive prices up, hurting older Americans or those with medical conditions.” NBC’s Tom Costello said the “order takes direct aim at” the ACA’s “minimum coverage rules,” adding that “healthy 20-somethings with no kids who aren’t making a lot of money” will benefit, while “a 60-something couple with higher medical expenses” will be hurt.
The Los Angeles Times (10/12, Levey) reports that although “loosening consumer protections in the ACA might make insurance cheaper for those in good health, that would happen at the expense of millions of sicker Americans, who’ll have to pay more, warn patient advocates, state regulators and others across the healthcare sector.”
Similarly, the AP (10/12, Alonso-Zaldivar) reports some experts warned that “the White House plan could undermine coverage on the ACA’s insurance marketplaces, particularly for people with health problems.” The article says this “would happen if healthy people flock to lower-cost plans with limited benefits.” Meanwhile, others argued that the proposals in the executive order seem “to be modest and would have limited impact.”
White House Official Says ACA Repeal Efforts May Resume In The Spring.
The Washington Examiner (10/12) reports that on Thursday, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said “there probably won’t be a new Obamacare repeal bill until the spring.” Commenting on the executive order which President Trump signed on Thursday, he added, “This was a way to take care of as many Americans as he could legally.” The article says Kelly explained that Trump had not previously signed such an order because he expected congressional Republicans to include similar provisions in an ACA repeal, but the latest attempt to pass repeal legislation failed at the end of last month.
Insurers Praise California Drug Price Transparency Law.
Fierce Healthcare (10/12, Small) reports California’s new drug price transparency law, a measure that requires pharmaceutical companies to notify the state and insurers of planned price increases of 16 percent or more over two years, “is welcome news for the health insurance industry.” The piece says Anthem Blue Cross of California, one of the state’s largest insurers, and industry group America’s Health Insurance Plans are “fans of the measure” and believe it will benefit consumers and insurers alike.
Public Health and Private Healthcare Systems
Anthem Agrees To Reduce Premium Increase After California Regulator Challenge.
Kaiser Health News (10/12, Terhune) reports Anthem Blue Cross will lower its two planned premium increases for next year after the California Department of Managed Health Care challenged its projected medical costs, which included a predicted 30 percent increase in pharmacy costs. Anthem will still increase rates 37.3 percent for next year. Anthem’s statement explained that they revisit “our assumptions and rates as more data becomes available” and that “emerging data allowed us to provide some rate relief to California individuals and small businesses versus what was originally filed.”
Texas’ CHIP Funding Expected To Run Out Sooner Due To Hurricane.
The Dallas Morning News (10/12, Kelly) reports that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission estimated last week that its funds for the Children’s Health Insurance Program will run out in January, rather than February, because of Hurricane Harvey, as lawmakers in Washington debate how to reauthorize funding. The article says that lawmakers from both parties “support funding CHIP.”
Arkansas Blue Cross Sues CMS Over Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.
The Arkansas Democrat Gazette (10/12, Davis) reports Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield has filed a lawsuit over a decision by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to bar the insurer from enrolling new customers in its Medicare prescription drug plans this year for “failing to meet a requirement established under the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” The ACA requires that at least 85 percent of the money a company “collects in drug plan subsidies and premiums go toward customers’ drug expenses, rather than administrative expenses or profits.”
Wisconsin Exchange Rates To Increase 36 Percent.
The Wisconsin State Journal (10/12, Wahlberg) reports JP Wieske, Wisconsin Deputy Commissioner of Insurance, said Thursday that premiums on the Affordable Care Act exchange will go up an average of 36 percent next year. Wieske added, “The increases we’re seeing reflect the increased amount of risk that a smaller number of carriers are going to have to take on.” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) said, “Obamacare is collapsing, and these huge premium increases show the law failed on its promise to deliver affordable healthcare.”
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (10/12, Boulton) reports Wieske explained that the 20,000 to 30,000 people in the individual market who do not receive subsidies “are going to be the ones who are hit the hardest.” He continued, “Nobody wants to compete for this market, despite the subsidies that are available to consumers. … That is sort of troubling.”
Massachusetts’ Health Connector Rates To Increase 8.7 Percent. The Boston Globe (10/12, McCluskey) reports rates on Massachusetts’ health insurance exchange, Health Connector, will increase 8.7 percent in 2018. The Globe said Connector officials “chose not to subject consumers to ‘unwarranted’ increases right now” based on uncertainty as to whether the federal government would stop paying government subsidies. The article adds, “The Trump administration still could choose to stop paying the subsidies, causing an unusual scenario in which Connector insurance rates could rise in the middle of the year. That could result in confusion and inconvenience for tens of thousands of people.” Officials said last week that rates could increase 24 percent if the subsidy payments stopped.