October 23, 2017
McConnell waiting for Trump to make decision on health care
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is willing to hold a vote on the bipartisan proposal to stabilize the market if President Trump supports the bill. Last week, Trump offered support and then changed his mind several times. On Friday, Trump said he wanted the bill to include retroactive relief for individuals and employers subject to the ACA’s insurance mandate. White House budget Director Mick Mulvaney also laid out more demands on Sunday, saying that the Administration wants greater use of association health plans, the ability for insurers to sell across state lines and an expansion of health savings accounts. House Speaker Paul Ryan indicated the House will not support the bill. According to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the bill currently has the support of all 48 Senate Democrats and 12 Republicans.
States dispute halt of CSR payments
Attorneys general from 19 states will go before a federal judge today in a hearing about CSR payments. The attorneys general, led by California’s Xavier Becerra, will argue that the payments are required by law and the federal government must disburse the funds; the Justice Department maintains that since funding was never appropriated, CSR payments are illegal. Trump announced last week that the federal government would quit making the payments on those same grounds.
IRS requiring disclosure of health coverage
The IRS announced it will reject electronic tax returns if health insurance coverage is not disclosed, signaling the Trump Administration may enforce the individual mandate. The agency’s announcement seems to contradict an executive order earlier this year asking agencies to scale back the ACA. While the agency is collecting the information necessary to enforce the mandate, it remains to be seen if it will penalize individuals who do not sign up for health coverage. Proponents of the mandate argue it is necessary for the ACA’s success, as it keeps young, healthy people enrolled in health coverage.
ACA outreach programs act with urgency
State officials and consumer groups are launching urgent outreach programs to sign people up for ACA health coverage during the open enrollment period. Open enrollment runs from November 1 to December 15, roughly half the time of previous open enrollments. Health experts and advocates are concerned the narrow enrollment period and the Administration’s decision to cut funding for outreach will hamper efforts to sign people up for health plans. Advocacy groups and state officials aim to ensure consumers know they can still get coverage and subsidies despite the uncertainty around the law.
CMS approves Oregon innovation waiver
CMS has approved Oregon’s application for a state innovation, or Section 1332, waiver. The waiver will allow the state to forgo the ACA’s single-risk-pool requirement in order to set up a reinsurance program, which aims to lower the cost of premiums in the individual market. Funding for the reinsurance program will partially come from a state health insurance tax. This is the fourth proposal CMS has approved.
Consumers may find their health enrollment rolled over
Millions enrolled in ACA health plans may find themselves locked into unwanted plans for 2018. In the past, some consumers were automatically re-enrolled in the same plan but were then sent a notice encouraging them to shop around to get the best, most affordable coverage. This year, re-enrollment will not occur until after open enrollment has closed, preventing consumers from having the time to comparison shop for an alternative, less-expensive plan. This is particularly concerning this year because political uncertainty around the health care law has contributed to spikes in 2018 insurance rates that might catch customers by surprise, as well as widespread public confusion about this year’s enrollment season.
Coverage for millions of kids at risk
Federal funds for CHIP expired on September 30, meaning that it is up to states to keep these programs operational. Coverage remains the same in states for now, but many will run out of funding for CHIP soon, forcing them to look into other options for covering more than 9 million children. Many states will likely shift their CHIP enrollees over to Medicaid coverage to make up for the lack of federal assistance.
US uninsured rate rises to 12 percent in third quarter
According to Gallup and ShareCare, the percentage of U.S. adults lacking health insurance rose in the third quarter of 2017 to 12 percent, up 0.6 percentage points from the previous quarter and 1.4 points since the end of 2016. The uninsured rate is now the highest recorded since the last quarter of 2014, when it was 13 percent. Some insurance companies have stopped offering coverage through the exchanges, and the lack of competition could be driving up the cost of plans. As a result, some Americans may forgo insurance, especially those who fail to qualify for federal subsidies. Uncertainty about the health care law may also be driving the increase.
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