September 7, 2017
Notes from insurance commissioners hearing with the Senate HELP Committee
Yesterday, the Senate HELP Committee held the first of four hearings on stabilizing the ACA exchanges. In the hearing, state insurance commissioners discussed easing the 1332 waiver process and funding CSRs. Four of the five insurance commissioners who testified support also support establishing a federal reinsurance program. Today, five governors will testify before the committee. Click here to watch the hearing.
CHIP renewal could be in jeopardy with busy, contentious legislative agenda
The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides health coverage to more than nine million children in lower and middle class families, is set to expire on September 30. Some health advocates are worried lawmakers’ focus on other issues—including Hurricane Harvey cleanup, the debt ceiling and tax reform—could jeopardize the program’s renewal. Advocates are also worried that legislators might attempt to attach partisan provisions to the reauthorization, which threatens CHIP funding.
Senate moves to block Trump’s HHS cuts
The HELP Committee’s Appropriations subcommittee has rejected a request from the Trump Administration to cut $15 billion in discretionary funds for the next fiscal year. The President’s 2018 budget proposed a 17 percent cut to $69 billion for HHS. Congress also recommended boosting funding for National Institutes of Health (NIH) by $2 billion; the Trump administration had previously proposed almost $6 billion in cuts for NIH.
Insurers scale back ACA participation citing unstable marketplace conditions
Optima has announced it will scale back its participation in the Virginia exchanges next year, leaving 70,000 enrollees across 48 counties without an insurer in 2018. Optima made the decision after other insurers announced they would leave Virginia, prompting concerns among Optima’s leadership about ability to process the high volume of enrollees. State officials are attempting to find another carrier to cover the bare counties, In addition, Anthem said it would only sell ACA plans next year in 59 of 120 counties in Kentucky, citing uncertainty and unstable conditions in the health insurance marketplaces. They previously had planned to sell in all counties in the state.
Three population groups see uninsured rate increase
A report from the Commonwealth Fund finds the uninsured rate for working-age Americans stayed roughly the same in 2017, but three subgroups saw increases in the number without insurance. The uptick occurred among: 35 to 49 year olds; those with incomes above the subsidy range; and adults living in states that did not expand Medicaid. Those who did not enroll in insurance cited lack of awareness of ACA exchanges and cost as a primary cause.
New study finds overtreatment is common
A survey of U.S. physicians indicates that roughly 20 percent of medical care delivered is unnecessary, including 22 percent of prescriptions, 24.9 percent of tests and 11.1 percent of procedures. Doctors ascribe overtreatment to a variety of causes: 85 percent acknowledge concerns about malpractice lawsuits is a motivating factor, 60 percent said patients often demand unnecessary treatment and 70 percent admitted they were more likely to perform unnecessary treatments if it benefited them financially.
Volunteers & outreach groups promote ACA enrollment season
The political group Indivisible has helped coordinate 1,500 volunteers to participate in its ACA Signup project, a digitally organized campaign aimed at promoting open enrollment. The group hopes to counteract a shorter open enrollment period and HHS’s 90 percent budget cut to advertising and programs designed to encourage Americans to sign up for health care coverage.
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