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GOP leaders think they will have ACA repeal compromise soon
House Republican leaders, including Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), claim moderate and conservative GOP lawmakers have nearly reached a compromise on a health care reform bill. Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), chairman of the Freedom Caucus, are brokering a deal through an amendment that will allow states to apply for waivers to repeal the community rating, which protects individuals with pre-existing conditions. It also gives states the option to let insurers sell plans that do cover essential health benefits, which include mental health and prescription drugs.
CSR funding still uncertain
State officials are asking Congress to fund the cost-sharing subsidies under the ACA. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners sent a letter to Congressional leadership saying the subsidies are necessary for stable insurance markets. Without the subsidies, the group predicts insurers will seek double-digit premium increases in 2018. The Insurers are asking for full funding of the subsidies to be included in the upcoming spending bill.
Lobbyists, health care groups spend big money
Advocacy and lobbying groups engaged in heavy spending while Congress was attempting to repeal and replace the ACA, Politico Pulse reveals. Financial disclosure forms for the first quarter reveal the Federation of American Hospitals spent $1.18 million, America’s Essential Hospitals spent $300,000, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida spent $360,000.
Insurance groups have also donated large sums to campaigns. PACs for Aetna, Anthem, Humana and Cigna, and the PACs representing BCBS and AHIP all gave $5,000 contributions to Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH), the Ohio congressman who was on a House committee charged with the ACA repeal efforts. The PAC for the American Hospital Association gave $10,000. Head of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Greg Walden (R-OR), received $7,500 from Cigna’s PAC and $6,000 from the American Osteopathic Association.
Risk-corridor law suit dismissed
On April 18, the court dismissed the risk corridor payment lawsuit brought by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. The government argued that it would not owe payments until the risk-corridor program ends and final accounting takes place at the end of this year or early 2018. This is the first decision on risk-corridor payments to be dismissed based on being premature. There are roughly two dozen additional cases brought by insurers who claim they have been denied risk corridor payments.
Trump expands VA health care program
President Donald Trump has signed legislation authorizing the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) to temporarily extend the Choice Program, which allows veterans to seek limited treatment outside the VA system. The move gives VA Secretary David Shulkin time to develop a comprehensive plan that allows veterans to receive care from private providers. The law Trump signed also promotes wider sharing of medical records and quicker VA payments.