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Jul. 26, 2018: House Passes Bills To Delay ACA Health Insurance Tax, Expand Access To HSAs

Jul. 26: House Passes Bills To Delay ACA Health Insurance Tax, Expand Access To HSAs

Posted on: July 26, 2018 By: admin

Leading the News


House Passes Bills To Delay ACA Health Insurance Tax, Expand Access To HSAs.

USA Today  (7/25, Alltucker) reports that on Wednesday, the House voted on bills to delay the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance tax “and allow consumers broader use of health savings accounts.” The article says “House Republicans joined one dozen Democrats to support a bill that would postpone the health insurance tax through 2021.” The vote was 242-176. The piece adds that the tax already had been delayed through 2019 and “is intended to help fund the health law’s insurance expansion.”

Legislation and Policy

Democrats See Healthcare As Winning Issue Ahead Of Midterm Elections.

The Washington Post  (7/25, Debonis, Goldstein) reports that “three months from the midterm elections, health care remains a gaping political vulnerability for the GOP,” suggesting that while “Republicans have been unable to produce an alternative to the law, they have succeed in undoing key provisions that critics say are leading to rising premiums for individual buyers of health insurance.” As such, “Democrats consider health care – more than any other issue – their best chance to persuade swing voters in key races nationwide.” With this in mind, “the party’s candidates and political committees are already on air with ads targeting Republicans who backed the ‘repeal and replace’ effort, and they expect to spend tens of millions of dollars attacking the GOP on health care over the next 100 days.”


Poll: 58% Blame Republicans For ACA Problems.

The Washington Times  (7/25, Howell) reports that a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released Wednesday shows that “nearly six in 10 Americans say President Trump and his GOP allies are responsible for Obamacare-related problems because they’ve made changes to the law.” According to the poll, “58 percent of the public will hold Republicans accountable for turmoil in the insurance markets, while only a quarter say that because President Obama and Democrats passed the law, they should take the blame.” While “roughly a third of the public thinks Mr. Trump is trying to make the Affordable Care Act work,” 56% “think Mr. Trump is trying to make the program fail. Within that share, 47 percent see that as a bad thing and 7 percent see it as a good development.”


Public Health and Private Healthcare Systems


House Dems Unveil Measure That Would Allow Medicare To Negotiate Drug Prices.

The Hill  (7/25, Sullivan) reports that on Wednesday, House Democrats unveiled “a bill to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, hoping to lay the groundwork for a push on the issue next year.” The article says, “President Trump previously supported the idea, which is usually associated with Democrats, but did not propose it as part of the drug pricing plan he released in May.” The piece adds that recently, the Administration has taken action to reduce prescription drug prices, however, “Democrats want to go farther, and use Medicare’s negotiating power to bring down costs.”


CMS Seeks Further Cuts To 304B Drug Discount Program.

The Washington Examiner  (7/25, King) reports the Trump Administration on Wednesday proposed expanding “cuts to hospitals under the 340B drug discount program.” CMS earlier this year installed a 30 percent cut to the “controversial program that requires drug makers to discount products sold to hospitals that care for a certain number of low-income patients,” resulting in a $1.5 billion loss to many participating hospitals. CMS seeks “extending the cuts in 2019 to off-campus departments of hospitals, which are outpatient facilities located away from the hospital’s main facility.” Critics say the rule will negatively impact patients, but the Administration “said that the cuts would help to lower out-of-pocket costs for seniors because it will help Medicare beneficiaries save on the copay for drugs acquired through the program.”


CMS Seeks To Expand Site-Neutral Payments To Clinic Visits.

RevCycle Intelligence  (7/25, LaPointe) reports, “CMS recently proposed to implement site-neutral payments for clinic visits provided at off-campus provider-based hospital departments.” This move is an effort by CMS “to reduce Medicare spending on similar services by applying a Physician Fee Schedule-equivalent payment rate for clinic visits performed at an off-campus provider-based department.” Commenting on the matter, CMS Administrator Seema Verma said, “Our healthcare system should always put patients first, and CMS today is taking important steps to empower patients and provide more affordable choices and options.”


CMS Administrator Says “Medicare For All Would Become Medicare For None.”

The AP  (7/25, Alonso-Zaldivar) reports CMS Administrator Seema Verma “is slamming ‘Medicare for All,’ the proposal from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for a national health care plan that would cover all Americans.” During a speech in San Francisco on Wednesday, Verma said “putting millions more people on Medicare would undermine care for seniors.” She is quoted as saying, “In essence, Medicare for All would become Medicare for None.”

The Hill  (7/25, Weixel) reports that according to Verma, “Ideas like ‘Medicare for all’ would only serve to hurt and divert focus from seniors.” She added, “By choosing a socialized system, you are giving the government complete control over the decisions pertaining to your care, or whether you receive care at all. It would be the furthest thing from patient-centric care.”

Kaiser Health News  (7/25, Terhune) reports that Verma explained, “Any efforts to thwart choice and competition and letting Americans make decisions about their healthcare is bad health policy.” She added that “a lot of the analysis has shown” single-payer is “unaffordable.” According to Verma, “It doesn’t make sense for us to waste time on something that’s not going to work.”

The Washington Examiner  (7/25, King) and Modern Healthcare  (7/25, Dickson, Subscription Publication) also cover the story.


Poll Reveals 51% Of Residents In Non-Medicaid Expansion States Favor The Idea.

Congressional Quarterly  (7/25, Raman, Subscription Publication) reports that according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll, “51 percent of people living in non-Medicaid expansion states favor expanding the government insurance program for low-income Americans, compared with 39 percent who think it should be kept the way it is.” Among respondents “who do not support expansion, nearly 70 percent said they would be more willing to support expansion if it included work requirements. The Trump administration has approved work rules in four states so far this year and is considering requests to do so from at least seven other states.” The article says 17 states have yet to expand Medicaid, although three of them are mulling the idea.

Opinion: Medicaid Expansion Has Taken Away From Sickest Patients. Wall Street Journal  (7/25, Finley, Subscription Publication) editorial board member Allysia Finley writes that states’ Medicaid expansions and a lack of spending accountability among managed care organizations has created a situation where Medicaid encourages insurers to spend more providing for able-bodied people and less for those who genuinely need the program, like the disabled and ill.


HHS Expected To Allow States To Waive ACA Provisions, Healthcare Lobbyist Says.

Bloomberg BNA  (7/25) reports that “states may receive more flexibility to make changes to their Obamacare markets under rules likely to be issued soon by the Trump administration…healthcare lobbyist [Joel White, president of the Council for Affordable Health Coverage] said July 25” at a Capitol Hill briefing. The new rules might “make it easier for states to make changes affecting the comprehensiveness of coverage, he said, adding, ‘We are expecting a new enforcement rule out soon.’”


Anthem Posts Higher Revenue, Profits Thanks To Expansion Of Its Medicare Business.

Contributor Bruce Japsen writes in Forbes  (7/25) that Anthem’s move “to exit some individual markets under the Affordable Care Act in favor of growing its Medicare business helped boost profits in the health insurer’s second quarter.” This allowed the insurer to “increase profits by 23% to $1 billion, or $3.98 per share, compared to $855 million, or $3.16 per share, in the year ago period.” Revenue rose by 2 percent to $21.2 billion. Data show that during “the second quarter, Anthem added 254,000 Medicare members thanks in part to acquisitions the company made in south Florida, a lucrative market for Medicare Advantage plans.” CEO Gail Boudreaux said the company intends “to invest more in operations and acquisitions in the Medicare Advantage business, which has helped offset the loss of medical members.”

The Washington Examiner  (7/25, Leonard) reports that a drop “in Medicaid enrollment, as well as in the Obamacare market, caused enrollment to fall by 888,000 people compared with the same time last year.” But the insurer “expects to gain more enrollees due to the expansion of the Medicaid program in Virginia, which projections show will enroll 400,000 more people on the program that begins Jan. 1, 2019.”

Fierce Healthcare  (7/25, Meltzer) and Modern Healthcare  (7/25, Livingston, Subscription Publication) also cover the story.


Montana Governor Says Cut To Medicaid Reimbursement For Nursing Homes Will Be Reversed.

The AP  (7/25, Volz) reports that on Wednesday, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) said “the state budget is back on track nearly a year after his administration projected a huge shortfall, and that some funding that had been cut will be restored to health programs for the elderly and disabled.” He also indicated that “the first cut to be restored will be to the reimbursement rate paid to nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and other providers that care for Medicaid patients. That reimbursement rate was cut nearly 2.99 percent in January, saving the state about $3.5 million annually.” The article adds that this move “prompted a lawsuit by the Montana Health Care Association and several nursing homes that said it was made illegally and forced some facilities to reduce services.”

Jeff Sopko