Uncertainty Defines Health Insurance Industry In 2017.
Fierce Healthcare (12/27, Small) reports that “if there’s a word that sums up what 2017 was like for the health insurance industry, that word would be uncertainty.” According to the article, the “primary source of that disruption was President Donald Trump and the Republican-led Congress, which created countless headlines as they tried to unravel the Affordable Care Act.” However, “despite all the disruption, the ACA proved more difficult to uproot than many thought–offering a degree of relief to an industry that was bracing for the worst.”
Legislation and Policy
Trump Intends To Sign New Executive Order Allowing Increased Sales Of Less Expensive Healthcare Plans, Sources Say.
Fox Business (12/27) reports on its website that President Trump intends “to sign a new executive order to make cheaper health care plans more accessible to consumers, a White House official confirmed to Fox News on Wednesday.” According to the unnamed source, HHS and the Department of Labor “are considering rewriting rules so that consumers can buy cheaper plans without all of the ObamaCare mandates.” The order could be signed by January.
Republicans Divided Over Whether To Repeal ACA, Or Focus On Other Priorities.
The Hill (12/27, Roubein) reports that there is a discussion “raging in the Republican Party over the future of ObamaCare, with some urging the party to take another shot at repeal in 2018.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has indicated he intends to move on to other priorities, but some conservatives disagree. They want to continue efforts to repeal the ACA, and keep their campaign promise to voters. The article says Dan Holler, a spokesman for Heritage Action, said repealing the healthcare law is “absolutely necessary for the conservative base.”
In a two-minute segment, NBC Nightly News’ (12/27, story 4, 2:10, Melvin) Chief White House Correspondent Hallie Jackson reported that although President Trump is promising Democrats and Republicans “will eventually come together and develop a great new healthcare plan,” Republicans have “not much appetite to try and replace” the Affordable Care Act. The segment quoted McConnell as saying, “I think we’ll probably move on to other issues.”
Public Health and Private Healthcare Systems
Congressman Seeks To Slash Federal Funding For DC Medicaid Program.
The Washington Post (12/27, Portnoy) reports Rep. H. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) filed a bill that would require the District of Columbia “to pay a larger share of its Medicaid costs, a change that D.C. officials say could cost the city at least a half-billion dollars a year.” The bill has no counterpart in the Senate and DC’s nonvoting representative in Congress, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), said, “He’s not getting anywhere with this.”
Oregon To Hold Referendum On New Taxes To Fund Medicaid.
The Eugene (OR) Register-Guard (12/27, Glucklich) reports on Measure 101, a Jan. 23 referendum though which Oregon voters “will decide the fate of an estimated $320 million in new health care-related taxes meant to help fund Oregon’s Medicaid program.” The article reports that “proponents of the taxes, supported by medical associations, unions and liberal advocacy groups, have raised more than $1.8 million for the Yes for Healthcare Political Action Committee, according to state campaign finance records.”
Shift To Value-Based Payments Slowed Down This Year, Experts Contend.
Modern Healthcare (12/27, Castellucci, Subscription Publication) reports the move “to value-based payment stalled in 2017 largely because of decisions made by new CMS leadership and distractions caused by efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, health quality experts say.” The article says that in the past year, CMS Administrator Seema Verma has “touted an agenda that supported value-based payment but also focused on ways to reduce administrative burden for clinicians.” Consequently, “the Trump administration slowed down the implementation of Obama-era mandates intended to move the dial on value-based payment.”
Kindred Healthcare Stakeholder Brigade Capital Opposes Humana Deal.
Bloomberg News (12/27, Tracer) reports that Brigade Capital Management, which holds 5.8% of Kindred Healthcare, “said it opposes a takeover of the medical-facility operator by a group of investors including health insurer Humana Inc., because the price is too low.” In a letter to Kindred’s CEO, Brigade said Humana’s $9-a-share offer is “grossly inadequate” and doesn’t represent Kindred’s improvements in its operations.
Reuters (12/27, Erman) reports that Brigade said in the letter it intended to vote against the deal. According to Thomson Reuters data, Brigade is the fifth largest shareholder of Kindred.
Additional coverage is provided by the Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal (12/27, Wolfson), CNBC (12/27), Forbes (12/27, Japsen), Modern Healthcare (12/27, Subscription Publication), and Axios (12/27, Herman).
Alabama Will Not Freeze Enrollment In CHIP.
The Hill (12/27, Sullivan) reports that Alabama officials announced Wednesday that it “will no longer freeze enrollment for children’s health insurance on Jan. 1, thanks to new temporary funding passed by Congress.” Cathy Caldwell, the director of Alabama’s Bureau of Children’s Health Insurance, said, “With the continuing resolution passed by Congress on December 21, 2017, ALL Kids will not freeze enrollment on January 1, 2018 nor terminate coverage on February 1, 2018, so we will not be sending out notices to enrollees this week.” Caldwell indicated that the new funding would keep the program operating for an “additional 3-4 weeks,” and added, “We need Congress to pass full, long term funding for CHIP early in January.”
Consumer Directed Healthcare News
Mass Shooting Victims Face Large Uncovered Medical Costs.
Modern Healthcare (12/27, Meyer, Subscription Publication) reports that US mass shootings are revealing “serious gaps in insurance coverage for medical and long-term care.” Hospitals have had to help victims cope with major uncovered costs, including “inpatient care, follow-up surgeries and other treatments, mental healthcare, rehabilitation and skilled nursing care, durable medical equipment, personal care, and living costs while the patients are not able to work.” Nevada Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D) and Dean Heller (R) “recently urged the heads of America’s Health Insurance Plans and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association to have their member plans review their policies to provide more generous coverage,” the article says, but “shooting victims face many costs that will never get covered by insurance.”