October 17, 2017
Congressional action on market stability
With Congress back at the negotiating table, President Trump predicted a short-term bipartisan fix for the ACA would come ‘fairly soon’ and a longer fix would be ready next spring. President Trump has said he favors continued negotiations around bipartisan legislation from Senators Alexander (R-TN) and Murray (D-WA) on market stability – support that could sway Republican votes for the measure. Senator Alexander said he would like to pass a bill as soon as possible so that consumers could see premium relief in 2018, since exchanges open for enrollment November 1. Passing any stabilization legislation could be difficult however, as many Senators are already focused on tax reform.
Industry organizations pressure Congress for ACA solutions
Insurers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sent a joint letter to leaders of the House and Senate urging lawmakers to take immediate action to continue funding for CSR subsidies. The letter expressed concern that funding cuts will have harmful consequences for patients, families, businesses and taxpayers as well as drive up premiums and limit health insurance choices for consumers. Signatories included AHIP, BlueCross BlueShield Association, American Benefits Council, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Hospital Association, American Medical Association and the Federation of American Hospitals.
Administration allows plans to change exchange rates
The Trump Administration is allowing some insurance companies to change health exchange premiums following the President’s decision to end CSR payments. CMS is letting plans account for the lost money through higher premiums although a deadline for signing contracts was September 27. The end of CSR payments has led to double-digit premium increases in many states.
Stalled progress on CHIP reauthorization
Progress has stalled on bipartisan negotiations to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) said that committee Democrats have not presented GOP lawmakers with a counteroffer to their proposed cost offsets. Lawmakers opposing the bill cited dissatisfaction with cuts to an ACA public health fund and increased Medicare premiums for those with incomes of more than $500,000 a year. If the two sides can’t agree, the full House will vote on the partisan bill passed by the committee. Funding for the program expired September 30. Without action from Congress, some states could run out of funding by the end of November.
Maine voters to decide on Medicaid expansion
As the Trump Administration takes steps to weaken provisions of the ACA, voters in Maine will decide via a statewide ballot initiative whether the state should accept enhanced federal funding to expand Medicaid to adults under age 65 with incomes at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Health advocates, citizens and left-leaning groups began collecting signatures last year for the November 7 ballot initiative. The state’s Republican governor, Paul LePage, strongly opposes the proposal, arguing that the expansion would deplete state coffers. Advocates estimate 70,000 Mainers would gain coverage if voters pass the measure.
Apple eyeing moves into health care space
Apple is looking to expand into health care, specifically primary care. Apple has explored buying Crossover Health, a company that helps run clinics for large, self-insured employers (including Apple). They are also in talks with the nationwide primary care organization One Medical and have recently hired top health care talent. Apple is also working with the FDA on finding better ways to fast-track digital health software through the regulatory approval process. The company has several research and development projects in the health space, including a team working on a sensor to non-invasively and continuously track blood sugar levels.
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