November 8, 2017
Maine voters expand Medicaid
Maine voters approved a ballot measure expanding Medicaid coverage under the ACA. The referendum, which about 60 percent of voters approved, will make roughly 80,000 more Maine residents eligible for Medicaid. With the decision, Maine became the first state to expand Medicaid by referendum and the 32nd state in addition to the District of Columbia to adopt the ACA’s Medicaid expansion. Several other states are working to get Medicaid expansion on the ballot and could follow Maine’s lead.
Administration shows support for Medicaid work requirements
The White House announced Tuesday that it supports work requirements for Medicaid. CMS Administrator Seema Verma said the Administration is ready to approve waiver proposals from states to require employment or community engagement for Medicaid eligibility. At least seven states – Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Utah, Wisconsin and New Hampshire – have submitted waiver requests or a proposal.
House to add individual mandate repeal to their tax plan
The next round of markups to the House tax plan could add a provision to repeal the ACA’s individual mandate. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected earlier this year that eliminating the mandate would save $416 billion because it would reduce the number of insured Americans who receive government subsidies. However, the CBO is now projecting significantly less savings. The Administration supports eliminating the individual mandate via the tax legislation, but the idea is less popular in the Senate. A revised analysis could come this week.
Senate Republicans won’t axe medical expense deduction
The popular and widely-used medical expense tax deduction will be preserved in the Senate version of the tax plan, to be released later this week. Some Senators feel the deduction can make a difference for constituents facing high health care costs. Close to 9 million households currently claim the medical expense deduction. The House bill would eliminate the deduction, which would save about $182 billion over a decade.
Factors of rising health care costs
According to researchers at the University of Washington and UCLA, U.S. health care spending soared by more than $930 billion between 1996 and 2013. The research identifies five factors associated with increased health care spending: Population growth, an aging population, price increases and complexity of treatments, changes in how much health care we use and changes in disease prevalence. While some of these factors are difficult to control, such as an aging and growing population, matters of cost, such as the 50 percent jump in treatment costs, could be improved through legislation.
House votes to ease VA telemedicine restrictions
The House passed legislation to lessen geographic restrictions on telemedicine services for veterans. Currently, patients can only receive care via telemedicine when they are in the state that the provider is licensed. However, the new bill will allow VA health care providers to deliver care across state borders. The bill will also require a report from the VA Secretary on the effectiveness of telemedicine within a year of the legislation being enacted including veterans’ and providers’ satisfaction with the technology.
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