ACHP Media Monitoring Report – September 06, 2017

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Senate Hearings on market stabilization begin
The first set of Senate HELP Committee hearings on strengthening the health insurance marketplaces begins today. The Committee is trying to reach a bipartisan deal with a focus on stabilization before the end of the month. Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and ranking member Patty Murray (D-WA) are pushing for a narrow deal that includes funding for CSRs, but it’s unclear if there is enough support to pass such legislation. Democrats also plan to push for more funding for ACA enrollment efforts following the Administration’s decision to cut spending on open enrollment outreach by 90 percent.

Last ditch effort to repeal ACA
The White House is making a last-ditch effort to pass a health care reform bill before the window closes later this month. Administration officials are working with Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on a bill that would provide block grants to states that could be used to set up state-level health care systems. Graham acknowledges the bill does not have enough votes to pass the Senate at the moment. Current Senate rules give the Administration until September 30 to pass a health care bill with only Republican votes, a fact complicated by a busy Congressional calendar that includes debates on the debt ceiling, next year’s budget, and tax reform.

Some states go beyond federal limit for ACA signup
Many states running their own exchanges have announced they will exempt themselves from a rule enacted by the Trump Administration that cuts open enrollment to a 45-day period. California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Washington, DC, plan to extend the deadline for individuals to enroll in a health plan; each state has set a separate date for the end of open enrollment. Some states believe consumers need additional time to make an informed choice and that the expanded period will boost overall enrollment.

Jerome Adams sworn in as surgeon general
Vice President Pence swore in Jerome Adams, M.D., MPH, yesterday as the new U.S. Surgeon General. Adams plans to focus on the opioid addiction crisis, mental health issues and childhood obesity. Adams previously served under then-Governor Pence as the Indiana health commissioner, where he helped cut the state’s infant mortality rate and successfully coordinated the state’s response to the Scott County HIV outbreak in 2011.

Consumer groups pressure Senate to pass bipartisan bill
Nearly 100 consumer, patients and providers organizations have asked Congress to pass a bipartisan bill to stabilize the ACA insurance markets. The groups suggest Congress pass funding for CSR subsidies; a reinsurance program to help insurers cover the cost of expensive enrollees; and funding to support open enrollment, including money for outreach and enrollment assistance.

New study highlights the mental health coverage gap
A study in Health Affairs Journal looked at more than 500 provider networks, all for insurance plans sold through the exchanges, and found very few mental health professionals in those networks. On average, exchange plans cover just 11 percent of all mental health providers in a particular state. More than 50 percent of psychiatrists aren’t part of a single health plan, considerably lower than the number of primary care providers who participate in exchange plans. Congress has made efforts to require insurers to cover mental and physical health services but this would only make a difference if patients can locate a doctor.