October 26, 2017
CBO scores bipartisan Senate bill
According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the bipartisan Alexander-Murray Senate bill intended to stabilize the ACA exchanges and fund CSR subsidies would reduce the federal deficit by $3.8 billion over the next decade and would not substantially change the number of people covered. The savings in part would stem from letting states offer lower-cost copper plans that appeal to healthier enrollees. The CBO said it is too late for the bill to impact 2018 rates, but could help keep rates steady in 2019. While the legislation has bipartisan support, it faces opposition by some vocal conservative lawmakers and Speaker Ryan indicated yesterday that the House will not consider health care again this year.
Increased ACA plan costs
An independent study by Avalere Health reports that silver plans sold on the ACA exchange will cost an average of 34 percent more in 2018. The price increases are fueled by market uncertainty and the elimination of key federal payments to insurers. However, many ACA customers will be protected from the price hikes because their premiums are subsidized by the federal government. More than 80 percent of customers who purchase coverage through the ACA marketplace receive subsidies.
Judge denies request to force CSR payments
A request to force the White House to continue making CSR payments was denied by a federal judge on Wednesday. U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria ruled against an emergency order to require the Administration to make the payments, citing the lack of an immediate threat to consumers, especially as a majority of states have implemented alternative solutions to mitigate the potential of financial harm. The state attorneys general said they will continue to press for a permanent resolution throughout the duration of the lawsuit.
Administrative actions to reshape Medicaid services
CMS Administrator Seema Verma, is promising to give states an “unprecedented level of flexibility” to design their Medicaid programs. At an event in Cleveland, Verma pledged to lessen scrutiny of state requests for waivers. Verma previously laid out a plan for reforming Medicaid, which includes allowing states to alter eligibility requirements without a lengthy approval process and creating a “Medicaid scorecard” to measure performance. Some experts believe granting more leeway to states could undermine access to care by allowing states to pare enrollment or create barriers to care.
More states face crisis on CHIP funding
With Congress failing to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program, more states are likely to run out of money for the program. Virginia officials announced that they would have to start issuing disenrollment notices by the beginning of December to the households of 65,000 children and 1,100 pregnant women. Texas may run out of funding by January due to high demand after Hurricane Harvey, and Oregon, Washington and Minnesota only have enough funds to last through November. House Ways and Means Chair Kevin Brady (R-TX) said he is still negotiating offsets to fund the program.
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