October 2, 2017
New HHS secretary to be named, but policy will likely remain the same
After coming under fire for spending taxpayer dollars on privately chartered flights, HHS Secretary Tom Price resigned late Friday. President Trump has named Don J. Wright, who was serving as acting Assistant Secretary, as the acting Secretary. There is widespread speculation Trump will appoint CMS head Seema Verma as the new secretary, but FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, Governor Rick Scott (R-FL) and former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s (R-LA) have also been floated as a potential replacements.
Despite Price’s resignation, most experts believe HHS will continue to roll back regulations and programs implemented under the Obama administration. As Secretary, Price discontinued mandatory participation in experimental payment programs, and many expected him to grant wide-reaching waivers to conservative states for ACA regulations.
CHIP reauthorization in limbo
Congress has missed the September 30 deadline to reauthorize the CHIP program, ending federal funding for the program until Congress acts. The Senate has previously released a five year bipartisan bill to reauthorize the program, and both the Senate and House plan to begin markups on the bill later this week. Without federal funding, three states and Washington D.C. will run out of funding by December and a majority of states will run out of funding by March. A spokesperson from the House Energy and Commerce Committee said that they continue to have bipartisan discussions and are considering combining funding for the CHIP program and community health centers.
New Congressional budget omits ACA repeal
Congressional Republicans have released their draft budget resolution for fiscal year 2018, which does not include any instructions to the Senate or House Committees that oversee health insurance to legislate on ACA. The omission of any repeal and replace language in the budget is being taken as a sign that Congressional Republicans are moving on from health care reform to focus on tax reform.
Navigators face difficulties ahead of open enrollment
Health insurance navigator organizations are worried that glitches in the software used for mandatory navigator certification could create additional challenges in the upcoming open enrollment. Federal funding cuts have already forced many navigator organization to lay-off employees or close altogether, and many navigator groups are worried delays in certification could prevent them from performing essential outreach work. Navigators point out enrollment was already going to be more difficult due to shorter enrollment periods and planned downtime for the enrollment site, Healthcare.gov.
Iowa asks President Trump for Medicaid cuts
Iowa is asking permission from the Trump administration to alter benefits for Medicaid recipients, a move that could signal other state-level efforts to change the safety net program after Congress failed to repeal the ACA. Under existing policy, enrollees in Medicaid receive retroactive coverage for all treatment they received up to three month before they enrolled in Medicaid; the Iowa waiver would shorten that time frame to only one month. The state had asked for a decision by October 1, but that timeline was not met as of Sunday.
Trump Executive Order on association health plans
President Trump may release an executive order on “association health plans” early this week. This would allow small groups of small employers to band together and purchase their health care coverage as a collective and to buy insurance across state lines. Nonpartisan health care experts are concerned that broader association health plans would weaken insurance markets by pulling healthy consumers away from the market.
Medicare pays $1.5 billion for faulty devices
The HHS Inspector General released a report Monday finding Medicare paid at least $1.5 billion over a decade to replace seven types of defective heart devices, which failed for thousands of seniors. Patients paid about $140 million in out-of-pocket costs for the faulty monitors. The report is the first time the government has analyzed losses to taxpayers and patients 65 and older due to faulty medical equipment. Better tracking of product failures could lead to earlier recognition of problems with medical devices and faster recalls.
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