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Governors & state insurers to testify at ACA hearings September 7th
A bipartisan group of five governors will testify in front of the Senate HELP Committee September 7 on ways to fix the ACA. Govs. Charlie Baker (R-MA), Steve Bullock (D-MT), Bill Haslam (R-TN), Gary Herbert (R-UT), John Hickenlooper (D-CO) and state insurance commissioners will share strategies to stabilize the ACA market. HELP committee chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) hopes a bill can pass by the end of September, but that may be too late for insurers to adjust premiums for 2018. The final deadline for insurers to participate in the 2018 exchanges is September 27. One popular policy idea, reinsurance, is reportedly not on the table for these discussions.
Iowa ACA waiver plan comes under scrutiny
Iowa’s ACA waiver would tie premium subsidies to age and income, eliminate CSR subsidies that lower out-of-pocket costs for low-income Americans, require consumers to maintain continuous coverage and establish a state reinsurance program to shore up insurers. Some argue this would reduce premiums for the state’s wealthier residents, while increasing out-of-pocket costs for the poor and sick. State officials believe the changes are necessary to help lower premiums and to lure additional insurers to Iowa, a state that has struggled to establish a competitive exchange.
After ACA’s coverage expansion, racial disparities in uninsured rates narrow
A study by the Commonwealth Fund looked at the effect of the ACA’s major coverage expansions on disparities in access to care among adult demographic groups. The findings show that between 2013 and 2015, disparities between white adults and black and Hispanic adults shrank in three key areas: the percentage of uninsured, the percentage who skipped care due to costs, and the percentage who lacked a usual care provider. ACA’s coverage expansions were associated with increased access to care and reduced racial and ethnic disparities in access to care, with generally greater improvements in Medicaid.
Focus on behavioral health leads to development of assessment tools
Chronic condition management is a growing field in digital health, with multiple coaching and behavioral health tools available for many conditions. New York-based AbleTo Inc. is working with employers and health plans to offer support to employees who have medical conditions that may be associated with underlying behavioral health issues. Through their digital platform, the company is able to connect individuals with licensed therapists and coaches, and designs personal self-management programs paired with weekly virtual coaching sessions. AbleTo recognizes the need for technology and analytics to increase care coordination and lead to better health outcomes.
Appalachia continues to fall behind on health indicators
The Appalachian mountain region, with 25 million people, is fighting an uphill battle to keep pace with the rest of the U.S. when it comes to major public health indicators. The region is behind on 33 of 41 health indicators. Poisoning deaths, which includes drug overdoses, were 37 percent higher in Appalachia than any other region in the country. The suicide rate in Appalachia is a staggering 17 percent higher than the national rate. Making matters worse, there are 35 percent fewer mental health providers than every other part of the U.S.