ACHP Media Monitoring Report – October 18, 2017



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October 18, 2017

 Sens. Alexander and Murray strike bipartisan agreement
Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) have reached a bipartisan agreement to fund CSR payments to insurers in exchange for increased state flexibility. The plan includes two years of subsidy funding, $106 million for enrollment outreach efforts in 2018 and 2019, shorter federal review time for states seeking waivers and authorization for funding to help states start reinsurance programs. The proposal would also allow insurers to offer catastrophic insurance plans to consumers aged 30 and older on ACA exchanges, while keeping a single risk pool. GOP leaders have had mixed reactions to the proposal, with some saying the plan is a good start to addressing the cost of premiums and others arguing the focus should still be on repeal and replace. After some GOP colleagues criticized the Alexander-Murray deal, President Trump backed off support for the proposal, but Senator Alexander has noted that Trump has been supportive of the deal in recent phone calls. It is unclear if the agreement will get to the Senate floor for a vote.

Voters approve of plan for cheaper health insurance
Most voters are supportive of a component of President Trump’s executive order intended to promote the sale of cheaper health insurance. More than 50 percent of voters back Trump’s plan to make it easier for businesses to form associations with one another to sponsor cheaper, less comprehensive health care coverage. There are few details on how the federal government will implement the President’s order, and voters remain divided on the effects the plan would have on the health insurance system. Despite support for the plan, close to half of voters said they would be unlikely to swap their current plan for a cheaper, less generous option.

Insurers avoid higher costs for some consumers
Many insurers will still be able to operate in 2018 with the same or possibly even lower deductibles for consumers, despite uncertainty in the marketplace. Insurers and state regulators worked together to find a way to funnel more federal money into the ACA markets. While President Trump cut off CSR payments, he left intact tax credits that help low- and middle-income Americans pay their insurance premiums. Consumers who qualify for these subsidies for silver-level plans will still pay the same fraction of their income for health care—regardless of hefty price increases for these plans—and the federal government pays the insurers the rest of the higher premium. However, consumers may not know about their options this year. Shopping for plans will be more difficult because of funding cuts to advertising and navigators, and consumers that just renew their plans could be missing out on a better option.

Trump leaning toward former pharma exec for HHS Secretary
Two White House officials said that former pharmaceutical executive Alex Azar is a leading candidate for HHS secretary. Azar served in senior roles at HHS, including time as the department’s general counsel during the George W. Bush Administration. Administration officials Seema Verma and Scott Gottlieb are reportedly no longer under consideration.

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