ACHP Media Monitoring Report – July 31, 2017

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ACHP in the News: The Administration has leeway in how it chooses to enforce the ACA, and insurers are concerned about whether or not HHS will provide stability to the marketplaces. ACHP President and CEO Ceci Connolly said there is a lack of advance warning about CSR payments, which help offset the cost of ACA plans. Insurers are seeking clarity as they decide if they will participate in the marketplaces in 2018.

Member News: The ACA still faces many challenges, but some insurers are breaking even or seeing profits in the exchanges. John Lovelace, president of government programs at UPMC Health Plan, said the plan is comfortable with the financials and is continuing to grow.

CSR subsidies in question, ways to improve the ACA
To force lawmakers to reconsider the health care bill, President Trump threatened cost-sharing reduction payments to insurance companies and the employer contribution to offset the cost of health care for lawmakers in a tweet this weekend. Trump has previously threatened subsidies to insurers, but the Administration has always paid them. The next set of payments is due in three weeks, and the end of the subsidies could lead to rising premiums.

With the defeat of the GOP health care bill, some health care experts are looking at ways to improve the ACA. High prices and a lack of insurance options in some parts of the country are the main concerns of many who rely on the ACA for health coverage. To address the issues, lawmakers can work to reduce drug prices, expand access to coverage and stabilize the market by guaranteeing CSR payments to insurers.

The use of reconciliation to move legislation has served as an example for some Democrats looking to expand health coverage. For some activists and progressive Democrats, the model of 51 votes could be a path to enacting universal coverage. However, some lawmakers caution against passing a bill through partisan votes. Sen. Susan Collins said this weekend on Meet the Press that better legislation is produced through the normal process.

Insurers sue government over $8 billion in owed risk corridors payments
Health insurers have filed almost two dozen lawsuits claiming the federal government owes payments from the risk-corridor program, meant to stabilize the ACA exchanges. The court is split – one insurer was awarded more than $200 million while another lost its case seeking more than $70 million. Both cases have been appealed and will be considered together by a three-judge panel in Washington. The ruling is expected to set precedent for other insurers seeking payments through the courts.

Slow growth pressures hospitals to merge and acquire
Slow organic growth in the first round of second-quarter earnings is driving increased merger-and-acquisition activity by for-profit hospitals. Year-over-year growth has slowed, causing hospitals to struggle to sustain the revenue growth and earnings performance that investors demand.  As a result, hospitals are merging and acquiring to stay profitable. The nation’s largest hospital chain HCA is buying for the first time since 2003, acquiring eight hospitals since April.

Therapists use virtual reality to treat patients
A handful of psychologists are testing exposure therapy provided by a Silicon Valley start-up called Limbix. The service allows doctors to provide emotional support to patients while they virtually revisit a past trauma using Daydream View, the Google headset that works with a smartphone. Experts predict cheaper hardware and software could bring treatment to more people.