White House Releases Paper With Recommendations On How To Lower Drug Prices.
The Washington Post (2/9, Cunningham) reported the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers released a 30-page paper “that promotes easing government regulations and spurring innovation to lower drug prices, while roundly rejecting the idea of government price setting.” The paper outlined several proposals concerning Medicare, Medicaid, and the Food and Drug Administration with the aim of lowering drug prices.
The New York Times (2/10, A14, Thomas, Abelson, Subscription Publication) reported that in addition to the recommendations outlined in the new paper, the President’s budget proposal, which is scheduled to be released today, is expected to address high drug costs by proposing an expansion of “drug coverage under Medicare.”
The Hill (2/9, Sullivan) reported that the proposals outlined in the White House paper “include a cap on out-of-pocket spending for enrollees in Medicare’s prescription drug program, allowing up to five states to join together to negotiate drug prices for Medicaid and cutting Medicare payments to remove an incentive for doctors to prescribe higher-priced drugs.”
Modern Healthcare (2/9, Kacik, Subscription Publication) reported the paper also “proposed decreasing concentration of pharmacy benefit managers, restricting drug-reimbursement under the 340B drug discount program and moving Medicare Part B drug coverage into Medicare Part D, among other recommendations.”
Legislation and Policy
Funding Bill Eases Meaningful-Use Requirements, Expands Telehealth Access For Medicare Beneficiaries.
Modern Healthcare (2/9, Arndt, Subscription Publication) reported that on Friday morning, President Trump signed the funding bill which “includes measures to ease meaningful-use requirements and to expand telehealth access for Medicare beneficiaries.” The article said this provision “could make meeting electronic health record meaningful-use requirements easier since they no longer have to become stricter over time.” The piece added that the measure “also includes the CHRONIC Care Act, which broadens Medicare coverage of services for chronically ill patients, including telemedicine delivered at home.”
Public Health and Private Healthcare Systems
Kentucky “Rushing” To Impose Medicaid Work Requirements.
In a front-page article, the New York Times (2/10, A1, Goodnough, Subscription Publication) reported that Kentucky is rushing to implement its recently approved Medicaid work requirements, “even as critics mount a legal challenge to stop it on the grounds that it violates the basic tenets of the program.” The article added that many in the state are worried the new rules will be “confusing and hard to follow,” and went on to discuss the fears of several residents who will be impacted by the change.
Kentucky To Build Website To Track Medicaid Recipients’ Work Hours. The AP (2/9) reported that as part of its effort to implement Medicaid work requirements, Kentucky intends to construct “a mobile-friendly website that works.” Officials “hope nearly half a million people will use their smartphones to log their hours so the government can keep track of who is meeting the requirements.”
Supporters Of Arkansas’ Medicaid Expansion Urge Legislators To Renew Its Funding.
The Arkansas Democrat Gazette (2/11, Wickline) reports that advocates of Arkansas’ “version of Medicaid expansion have been urging Senate critics of the controversial program to vote to fund it once lawmakers convene” for the fiscal legislative session which begins on Monday. The article says the program was originally “authorized in 2013 by the Republican-controlled Legislature and then-Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat.” Since “the program has deeply divided Republicans, the Legislature has struggled each year to obtain the required three-fourths vote in the Senate and the 100-member House to reauthorize the program’s spending authority.”
The AP (2/11, DeMillo) reports that Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) “and legislative leaders hope to keep the agenda limited to the budget when lawmakers convene at the Capitol this week, but they face uncertainty over whether there will be enough support to keep the state’s hybrid Medicaid expansion alive another year.”
Louisiana May Soon Seek To Impose Medicaid Work Requirements.
The Baton Rouge (LA) Advocate (2/10, Crisp) reported that Louisiana is taking steps “to become one of the next states to seek approval to require some Medicaid recipients to work to keep their health care coverage.” The article said this notion is part of “a wish list that House Republicans presented to Gov. John Bel Edwards in negotiations over the looming state budget shortfall.” The piece added that Edwards, a Democrat, has already been working on a plan to impose Medicaid work requirements.
Virginia Governor Considers Republicans’ Overtures On Medicaid Expansion “Progress.”
The Washington Post (2/10, Vozzella) reported that “just weeks into” this legislative session, M. Kirkland Cox, Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates and a Republican, “budged on an enormous issue: After four years of steadfast opposition, he opened the door to expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.” But, “his openness to expansion came with a caveat. Unless able-bodied Medicaid recipients are required to work, he warned” Gov. Ralph Northam (D) “in a letter, the rolls will not expand.” The article said the governor “has greeted Cox’s position as progress.”
Agency Pushing Bill That Would Reduce Its Oversight Of Iowa’s Privatized Medicaid Program.
The AP (2/11, Rodriguez) says the Iowa Department of Human Services “is proposing to roll back requirements in its oversight of the state’s privatized Medicaid program, a move that comes amid growing public scrutiny over the department’s plans to improve the program.” The article says that last week, the agency “requested a bill be filed…in the Legislature that would reduce how often it must report performance data on the health care program for the poor and disabled.” In addition, the measure would “remove some consumer protection metrics and eliminate a requirement that the agency report its expected savings under the privatized system.”
Mississippi Legislators To Decide If In-State Hospitals Will Be Allowed To Bid Again On Large Medicaid Contract.
The AP (2/10) reported that Mississippi legislators “will have to sort out whether they want to give in-state hospitals another shot at a big Medicaid contract, after House members included that proposal in their version of a bill to renew the state-federal health insurance program.” The article said this “move came as the House voted 107-4 Thursday to pass House Bill 898, which would renew legislative authorization for the health insurance program that covers 750,000 Mississippians.”
Oklahoma Agency May Cut Rates For Medicaid Providers Because Of Budget Shortfall.
The Oklahoman (2/9, Wingerter) reported, “The Oklahoma Health Care Authority faces a budget shortfall in the coming months because of problems with federal and state funds.” The agency “administers Soonercare, the state’s Medicaid program, and there isn’t much the board can do to generate substantial savings other than to cut rates, or hope that the Legislature comes up with some extra funding, deputy CEO Garth Splinter said.”
Maine Residents Who Lost Coverage Through Anthem Eligible To Enroll In ACA Plans Until March 1.
The AP (2/11) reports that Maine residents “who lost health care coverage when health insurer Anthem stopped selling plans through the federal marketplace can still purchase a new plan.” According to state insurance bureau superintendent Eric Cioppa, these people are eligible for a special ACA enrollment period which will end on March 1.
Wisconsin Governor Proposing Reinsurance Program To Address ACA’s Shortcomings.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (2/9, Boulton) reported that Wisconsin is about “to join states such as Minnesota and Oregon that have a program to help lessen the problems with the Affordable Care Act.” Gov. Scott Walker (R), who has long opposed the ACA, “has proposed using a mix of federal and state dollars to lower premiums – or at least check future increases – for insurance sold directly to individuals and families.” The article said the reinsurance program which Walker is proposing would tackle one of the ACA’s main problems: plans which have too many members with high medical bills, and not enough young, healthy members to balance them.
Nevada Working Toward Creation Of Its Own ACA Exchange.
The AP (2/10) reported that Nevada is preparing to leave HealthCare.gov and set up its own ACA exchange. On Friday, the Legislative Interim Finance Committee “authorized state officials to spend $1 million to prepare a request for proposals and find a private provider.”
Georgia Residents Facing Higher Premiums And Deductibles, Narrow Networks Because Of Changes To ACA.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (2/10, Hart) reported that last year, the healthcare industry and experts warned that changes being made by the Trump Administration “would result in trouble for patients,” and those predictions are being borne out. The article said that for Georgia residents, ACA premiums rose by some 50 percent almost overnight. The piece added that many residents have plans with premiums as high as $25,000 per year, plus high deductibles and narrow networks.