Trump expected to sign health insurance executive order today
President Trump is poised to sign an executive order today allowing the sale of cheaper, less comprehensive health plans that are exempt from ACA requirements. Trump’s plan also includes a focus on association health plans, which would allow groups to band together to purchase health insurance. It will also remove limits on short-term health insurance plans, allowing the plans to last as long as 12 months—up from the current three-month limit—and be renewed, and will likely include a provision making it easier for employers to set aside some money, tax-free, to help workers pay insurance premiums on the individual market. These changes, among others, could expand coverage options for healthy customers but raise costs for high-risk individuals. Some experts are concerned the changes will create further instability in the market. White House officials said this order is to be the first of many moves from the Trump Administration to strike parts of the 2010 law.
Medicare Advantage star ratings released
CMS has released its Medicare star ratings and reveals that performance among insurers overall in Medicare Advantage remains largely unchanged year-over-year. The latest data show that the number of Medicare Advantage plans that performed well in the CMS’ star ratings program dropped slightly from last year. Although the overall number of 4-star plans dropped slightly, more beneficiaries will be covered by the highest performing Medicare Advantage plans in 2018 and the amount of gold star performers, receiving a 5-star rating, remained unchanged. CMS began its star rating system for Medicare Advantage about a decade ago as a way to encourage insurance companies to provide high quality care to Medicare beneficiaries.
Health care spending grows steadily
According to the latest data from Altarum’s Center for Sustainable Health Spending, health care spending is growing at its slowest rate in years, but is still growing faster than the rest of the U.S. economy. The ACA’s expansion of insurance, along with the continued rise of deductibles, has pushed more patients, and dollars, into outpatient settings and doctors’ offices instead of hospitals, slowing costs. The area where spending has grown the fastest in the past year, other than health insurance administration, is in home health, with a 6.5 percent rise.
ACA enrollment groups reduce services after Trump funding cuts
Local and state groups that help with ACA enrollment say they will likely have to reduce their services following funding cuts from the Trump Administration, according to a survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Among programs that received reduced funding, 45 percent of statewide programs and two-thirds of regional programs said they will likely have to limit the territory their program serves, primarily impacting consumers in rural areas. In addition to limiting service area, groups may have to cut advertising, reduce the number of outreach events and cut short the amount of assistance provided for enrollment. Funding for the “navigator” groups was cut in half this year.
Cost increases ordered in both California and West Virginia ACA markets
On Wednesday, California’s health exchange ordered its insurers to add a surcharge to certain policies in response to uncertainty around CSR payments. The 12.4 percent surcharge on silver-level health plans in 2018 means the total premium increase for these plans will average nearly 25 percent. Statewide, rate increases will vary by insurer and region. What consumers pay depends on where they live, their income, what level of coverage they want and which insurer they choose.
In West Virginia, officials approved double-digit rate increases for ACA health plans in the state. Eighty-five percent of the nearly 25,000 residents who received health care through the exchange last year received a government subsidy, but those who did not saw a 32 percent increase in monthly premiums.
New York warns HHS over CHIP funding delay
New York will have to convene a special legislative session to address a nearly $1 billion shortfall if Congress doesn’t quickly renew funding for the CHIP, the state’s health department said Wednesday. In a letter to Acting HHS Secretary Eric Hargan, the state’s health commissioner warned about the consequences if CHIP funding is not renewed soon. It is extremely unlikely that the New York Legislature will be able to fill the $1 billion hole in funding left by the federal government and provide healthcare to the 350,000 children in New York that CHIP aides.
Tenet Healthcare looking to exit Chicago market
Just four years after expanding to the Chicago area, for-profit hospital giant Tenet Healthcare is looking to exit the region entirely. The health system reached a deal to sell one of its Illinois hospitals to Loyola Medicine, and is looking to sell its three other hospitals in the Chicago area, all of which have struggled in a region dominated by non-profit hospital networks.