Wealthiest Medicare Beneficiaries To Pay Larger Share Of Medical Costs Starting In 2019.
The Wall Street Journal (2/22, Tergesen, Subscription Publication) reports that beginning in 2019, Medicare beneficiaries with high incomes must pay a larger share of their medicals costs. The article says this is another attempt to transfer more Medicare costs to the wealthiest seniors. The piece adds that as of next year, beneficiaries who have incomes of $500,000 or more, and couples with incomes of $750,000 or more, will be placed into a new category and asked to pay 85 percent of what their parts B and D benefits cost. At present, they are paying 80 percent of those costs.
Top Dems Want Idaho To Explain Rules Allowing Policies That Do Not Meet ACA Requirements.
The Hill (2/22, Sullivan) reports that top Democrats in Congress “are pressing Idaho on its controversial plan to circumvent certain ObamaCare requirements.” On Thursday, four of them, Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) and Richard Neal (D-MA), “wrote to Idaho insurance commissioner Dean Cameron…asking if his moves comply with federal law and requesting a staff briefing on the state’s plans.” They said, “We strongly oppose efforts that result in higher costs and undermine consumer protections that are guaranteed by federal law that protect women, people with pre-existing conditions, and others facing discrimination in access to health care, and therefore request an explanation of how the Idaho Department of Insurance will regulate insurance plans being sold in the individual market that are not compliant with federal law.”
Congressional Quarterly (2/22, Clason, Subscription Publication) reports that Cameron is currently “reviewing five health plans submitted by Blue Cross of Idaho under the state’s new, looser guidelines that many experts say are illegal.” But Cameron is convinced “the state is on solid legal footing, and it’s unclear whether Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar will enforce penalties against Blue Cross.”
Health Benefit Managers Want CMS To Continue ACA Coverage Option For Supplemental Insurance.
Modern Healthcare (2/22, Dickson, Subscription Publication) reports that health benefit managers want the Trump Administration “to continue a little-known ACA coverage option for supplemental insurance, which is slated to end this year.” The article says there are “two versions of this coverage, one that’s available to part-time employees or retirees too young for Medicare who enrolled in individual health insurance policies, and another that can be used to supplement multi-state plans offered through the public marketplace.” The piece adds that this provision will end on December 31, 2018; however, retiree benefit managers are asking CMS to allow the coverage to continue.
HHS Rescinds Request For ACA Risk Corridor Funding In Trump’s Latest Budget Proposal.
Modern Healthcare (2/22, Livingston, Subscription Publication) reports that HHS rescinded “a request for more than $11.5 billion to fund the Affordable Care Act’s risk-corridor program after health insurers suing for those payments said the budget item strengthened their cases.” The article says more than three dozen insurers are suing the federal government over risk corridor payments, and two of them, Moda Health and Land of Lincoln Health, said “in court documents that the federal agency’s recent budget request flew in the face of the Trump and Obama administrations’ argument that the government isn’t obligated to pay them.”
Idaho Lawmakers Advance Bill To Allow Out-Of-State Insurance Plans.
The AP (2/23, Kruesi) reports that a bill which would permit out-of-state health insurers to sell their plans in Idaho will advance to the state Senate floor “despite concerns from lawmakers the bill will likely not deliver on its promises.” Proponents say the measure will “provide Idahoans with more options and drive down costs,” but others question whether it will have much effect. The AP notes that the bill comes as the governor issued an executive order permitting plans that do not comply with the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.
Public Health and Private Healthcare Systems
Adding Medicaid Work Requirements Could Cost Tens Of Millions Of Dollars Initially, Analyses Indicate.
Congressional Quarterly (2/22, Williams, Subscription Publication) reports that adding work requirements and making other significant “changes to Kentucky’s Medicaid program could cost nearly $187 million” to implement “in the first six months alone.” The article says Gov. Matt Bevin (R) predicts that “the program will eventually yield savings but the changes require an upfront investment in administrative expenses.” The majority of those funds will be used to set up “complex electronic systems and other changes needed to track work hours, monthly premium payments and other elements of Kentucky’s recently approved plan to revamp the government insurance program for low-income Americans.” The piece adds that a new analysis indicates adding Medicaid work requirements in Virginia “could cost the state tens of millions of dollars over the next couple of years.”
Virginia House Budget Includes Medicaid Expansion, Senate Budget Includes Cuts.
The Washington Post (2/22, Vozzella, Schneider) reports that Virginia’s House and Senate on Thursday approved “starkly different state budget plans, one flush enough for teacher raises, expanded health care and more financial aid for college students, the other filled with painful cuts.” More than a dozen House Republicans abandoned their long-standing opposition to Medicaid expansion and teamed up with Democrats to include it in their two-year spending plan. That approach would use federal funds to provide healthcare to as many as 400,000 uninsured Virginians, but would also allow the state to take more than $420 million currently devoted to healthcare and spend it on other priorities.
The AP (2/22) reports the GOP-controlled House “voted with a bipartisan majority for a budget that includes Medicaid expansion with work requirements, copays and new hospital taxes,” while the Republican-controlled Senate voted “along party lines against including Medicaid expansion in its budget.”
Arkansas Legislative Committee Rejects Proposal To Turn Medicaid Expansion Program Into Fee-For-Service.
The Arkansas Democrat Gazette (2/22, Wickline) reports that on Wednesday, a legislative committee rejected a proposal put forward by Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, which sought to turn “Arkansas’ version of Medicaid expansion – under which the state purchases private health insurance for some low-income Arkansans – into a fee-for-service program.” The article says state lawmakers “haven’t yet taken action on the Department of Human Services’ Medical Services Division’s appropriation, which includes spending authority for Arkansas’ version of Medicaid expansion called Arkansas Works.”
Florida House Committee Wants State To Submit Waiver For Medicaid Work Requirements.
The Orlando (FL) Sentinel (2/22, Sexton) reports that Florida may “consider imposing work requirements on adults enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program, a move some critics contend would be ‘cruel’ for poor people who rely on the safety-net program for health care.” Last month, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, said legislators would not consider imposing Medicaid work requirements, but on Wednesday, a state House committee “voted 14-4 for a bill to request federal approval of a requirement that people in the Medicaid managed-care program provide proof of working, attending school or trying to find jobs.”
Advocates Say Changes To KanCare Made Application And Renewal Process More Difficult For Seniors.
The Kansas City (MO) Star (2/22, Marso) reports that advocates for the elderly in Kansas contend several “changes the state made to streamline the Medicaid application and renewal process have actually created a maze that seniors are getting lost in.” The article says that three years ago, the state “moved to a new computer system for applying for Kansas Medicaid, or KanCare.” Data show that in the interim, “the number of seniors covered by KanCare for in-home nursing help has gone down and so has the number being covered for nursing home beds,” even though “the state’s population has been aging.” Advocates for seniors argue that there must a problem with the system.
BCBS Of North Carolina Says Tax Cut Will Help Keep Premium Hikes Lower In The Future.
The AP (2/22, Dalesio) reports that on Thursday, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, the state’s largest health insurer, said “its windfall from the new federal tax cut will hold down rate increases in the future, but this year it will use it to give charities $40 million and pay employees a $1,000 bonus.” Most rates for this year “were set by the time Washington finalized the tax cuts in December, but the windfall could translate into smaller cost increases for customers with policies renewing this October, Blue Cross spokesman Austin Vevurka said.”
Also in the News
Minnesota Insurers’ Administrative Costs Rose In 2016, Report Shows.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune (2/22, Snowbeck) says that administrative costs rose “again for health insurers in Minnesota during 2016, with the total tab for overhead increasing by about 7 percent to $1.81 billion, according to a new report.” This “was the highest annual tally during the past decade,” state health officials indicated. The piece says the report provides no explanation as to what could be “driving changes from year to year, nor does it draw conclusions on whether administrative spending is too high,” one health economist pointed out.
Think Tank Unveils Healthcare Proposal That Seeks To Achieve Universal Coverage.
The Huffington Post (2/22) reports that the Center for American Progress, a think tank based in Washington, DC, has put forward a healthcare proposal called “Medicare Extra for All,” which “would create a new public program, based on Medicare, that would be open to anybody.” In addition, the plan would automatically enroll the uninsured in this program, with the ultimate goal of achieving universal coverage. The article says some would consider this a single-payer proposal, since its objective is coverage for everyone, but others would dispute that it is single-payer, given that “it envisions a permanent, potentially large role for private insurance.” The piece adds that regardless of its label, the proposal is clearly “a more ambitious – and more progressive – health plan than the Democratic Party’s most influential thinkers have embraced in the past,” which “makes it noteworthy.”
The Hill (2/22, Sullivan) reports that the proposal seeks to build on the coverage expansion achieved by the ACA. The article says that by unveiling this plan, CAP has entered “a debate that has been accelerating among Democrats about how far to go in expanding on the Affordable Care Act with government-run insurance.” The piece adds that this proposal “goes farther than other Democratic ideas such as ‘Medicare X’ from Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), which would add a government-run option on ObamaCare’s marketplaces but leave the rest of the current options in place.”