October 5, 2017
CHIP moving in the Senate and the House
The Senate Finance Committee approved a bill to provide more than $100 billion over five years for the CHIP program but is still working to find a funding solution for the bill. In the House Energy and Commerce Committee, a similar bill was approved though there is still ongoing debate. Some experts doubt the full reauthorization can be passed quickly since House Republicans want to bring their bill to the floor for a vote without a bipartisan deal. The House bill requires Americans 65+ with an income of more than $500,000 a year to pay higher Medicare premiums. Some believe that the recent proposals will delay action in Congress until the end of the year omnibus appropriations bill. It is estimated that by the end of March 2018, more than half of the states will deplete their CHIP funds.
Both chambers of Congress propose budget cuts to Medicare and Medicaid
The 2018 House GOP budget plan calls for more than $5 trillion in spending cuts over the coming decade, including a plan to turn Medicare into a voucher-like program for future retirees, slash Medicaid by about $1 trillion, and repeal the ACA. In addition, according to a new report prepared for Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee, the Senate GOP budget would cut Medicaid by more than $1 trillion and Medicare by more than $470 billion. The alleged cuts would break President Donald Trump’s promise to not slash Medicare spending.
Medicaid was created in 1965 as a program for the poor and has become a far-reaching program, today providing health care to 74 million people. Medicaid paid for nearly $4 billion in school-based health care services in 2015 and about one fourth of all mental health services. The program covers more than 60 percent of all nursing home residents and 45 percent of all births.
California moves to strengthen ACA marketplace
Gov. Jerry Brown signed two measures to help Californians who buy health insurance under Covered California, the state’s ACA marketplace. The measures ensure a longer enrollment period and continued treatment for some patients even if their insurer leaves Covered California.
Seniors brace for expected Medicare Part B premiums increases
Seniors have lost one-third of their buying power since 2000 because Social Security cost of living adjustments have flattened while health care and housing costs have skyrocketed. This means that when Medicare premiums rise in 2018, many seniors will be feeling financially strapped. The program is expected to ask older adults who paid $109 this year to pay $134 for Part B coverage next year — an increase of $25 a month. Subtract that extra $25 charge from seniors’ average $29.92 monthly Social Security increase and all that be left would be an extra $4.92 each month for other expenses.
No. 2 spot at HHS confirmed
The Senate voted 57-38 to confirm Eric Hargan to fill the No. 2 post at the Department of Health and Human Services, with seven Democrats and Sen. Angus King (I-ME) backing the nomination. Hargan will be second in command of the agency that oversees the ACA, drug development and public health efforts. Eric Hargan is a Chicago-based lawyer who during the George W. Bush administration held various roles within the department, such as deputy general counsel, principal associate deputy secretary and acting deputy secretary. He was part of President Trump’s HHS transition team.
HIMSS seeks new laws to improve cybersecurity in health care
Healthcare Information Management and Systems Society (HIMSS) published its “wish list” during National Health IT Week. HIMSS stated the need for new laws to improve cybersecurity in the healthcare industry and to remove barriers that impede the use of telehealth. Some of the group’s goals include plans for effective response to threats, more cybersecurity personnel in the health care industry and investments in infrastructure to support 21st Century healthcare, particularly in rural areas that lack advanced telecommunications services.
Payers and providers struggle with positive consumer engagement
Health care payers and providers have been investing in tools to drive consumer engagement with doctors and health plans, but have yet to see these tools widely utilized. According to a survey produced by ORC International and commissioned by Change Healthcare, nearly three-quarters of consumers said their experiences with providers and health plans have been worse or no better over the past two years. Providers and payers dedicate between a quarter and a third of their investments to consumer engagement, but there still seems to be a gap between intent and use of products and services. Some experts say payers and providers can do a better job of promoting tools, like telehealth applications, and making them easier to use.
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