ACHP Media Monitoring Report: February 9, 2017

ACHP in the news: ACHP President and CEO Ceci Connolly discusses trends in the health care industry with Becker’s Hospital Review.

Courts block merger between Anthem and Cigna
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Johnson has ruled against Anthem’s purchase of Cigna. Johnson asserts the merger would violate antitrust laws by undermining competition in the market for multistate insurers. Brent Kendall and Anna Wilde Mathews of The Wall Street Journal explain the ruling is unlikely to be appealed, as the relationship between Anthem and Cigna has deteriorated since the merger was announced (subscriber’s content).

Patients gain rights with home health agency regulations
Patients and caregivers of home health agencies will have expanded rights and play a larger role in developing treatments. Under regulations announced last month, home health agencies will be required to provide patients with a list of their rights—both orally and in writing—and incorporate patients’ input into treatment. Judith Graham of Kaiser Health News has the story.

Head of freedom caucus open to temporary cost sharing for insurers
House Freedom Caucus Chair Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) indicated he is willing to provide reinsurance and cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers in 2018. Republicans have been considering whether to temporarily authorize such a program to encourage insurers to remain in the individual marketplace while Congress drafts an ACA replacement. House Republicans had previously sued the Obama administration for making similar payments without congressional approval. Mary Ellen McIntire of Morning Consult reports Meadows’ support could ease passage of the program through Congress.

Price likely to be confirmed Friday
In a 51-48 vote last night, the Senate ended a Democratic filibuster on the confirmation of Health and Human Services Secretary nominee Rep. Tom Price (R-GA). The move means the Senate will now allow 30 hours of debate before a final confirmation hearing, and Price will likely be confirmed along party lines sometime Friday, according to Ashley Kilough, Ted Barrett and Manu Raju of CNN.

Seema Verma confirmation hearings to start next week
The Senate Finance Committee is planning to begin confirmation hearings for Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator nominee Seema Verma next week. Verma will likely face questions about Medicaid reforms she enacted while overseeing Indiana’s Medicaid program, writes David Nathers of Axios.

Republicans, advocates debate individual mandate
As Republicans consider ACA replacement plans, crafting an alternative to the individual mandate remains a challenge. Paul Demko at Politico shares the current options under consideration would either increase the number of individuals without insurance or fail to align with conservative principles. The debate among Republican lawmakers to find a new way to entice insurers to cover those with preexisting conditions could chip away at support for a new health care law, according to Demko.

Patient advocates worry Republican alternatives to the individual mandate could leave the sickest individuals without health coverage. A lapse in health insurance could lead to premium hikes or denial of coverage in the future for patients with pre-existing conditions. Lev Facher at STAT has the story.

Half of American voters oppose ACA repeal
Fifty percent of Americans are opposed to repealing the ACA, finds a Quinnipiac University poll. Paulina Firozi of The Hill provides a brief breakdown of the poll.

Anthem and Centene Medicaid programs get low marks
California assessment data reveals Anthem and Centene manage five of the six lowest-quality health plans offered under Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program. The state plans to increase oversight of the companies until they raise the quality of care, reports Chad Terhune of California Healthline.

Studies of Note

In this feature, the Media Monitoring Report shares a selection of notable research studies within the health care industry.

The Relationship of Obesity to Hospice Use and Expenditures: A Cohort Study
Annals of Internal Medicine
February 7, 2017
Researchers from the University of Michigan and Harvard Medical School find obesity can lead to higher Medicare costs in the last six months of life. The study also demonstrated that obesity was linked with reduced hospice use and in-home death.

Trends in U.S. Health Coverage: Gains and Gaps
The Commonwealth Fund
February 2017
As a part of the Biennial Health Insurance Surveys, The Commonwealth Fund has produced a series of interactive graphs describing trends in health coverage. The graphs depict both improvements in access to health coverage as well as where there are still coverage gaps.

What Insurers Really Want: Payments for Obamacare Subsidies
February 8, 2017
Insurers could face losses in the individual market if they do not receive reimbursements for cost-sharing reduction subsidies, according to a study by Milliman for the Association for Community Affiliated Plans. David Nather at Axios reports the payments are currently in question due to a lawsuit claiming the subsidies were paid illegally. The Trump administration could decide to drop the appeal, which would end the payments.