September 13, 2017
Bipartisan Senate HELP Committee talks continue
States’ flexibility under 1332 waivers dominated discussions during the third day of HELP Committee hearings on ACA stabilization. The waivers allow states to modify insurance requirements and the structure of state exchanges. Republican lawmakers are pushing for more flexibility, but Democrats are opposed to any changes that might allow states to alter protections for essential health benefits. Lawmakers and expert witnesses also discussed CSRs and seemed to agree that Congress should move quickly to authorize funding for the payments.
Next Steps for the Cassidy-Graham repeal and replace bill
Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) yesterday to discuss their bill to replace the ACA. The bill would convert ACA funding into block grants for states to establish their own health care systems. McConnell indicated willingness to take up the legislation, but made it clear Cassidy and Graham would need to secure 50 votes before McConnell would move forward. The Trump Administration has offered cautious support for the bill and indicates the president will it if it reaches his desk. Passing the bill will be an uphill battle: a number of GOP Senators have denounced it, and lawmakers only have until September 30 to pass legislation with a simple majority due to Senate rules.
Deal struck to extend CHIP for five years
Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) have reached a deal to extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for five years. The Wyden-Hatch deal would preserve federal CHIP funding authorized under the ACA through 2019. Funding would gradually drop over the next few years, eventually reaching pre-ACA funding levels in 2022 and 2023. Hatch and Wyden are lobbying their fellow lawmakers to approve the deal before the end of the month, when current CHIP funding would expire.
National uninsured rate is the lowest it has ever been
The most recent numbers
from the US Census Bureau show that rate of uninsured in the US has dropped below 9 percent for the first time. The percentage of uninsured Americans has steadily decreased
since implementation of the ACA, which was designed to expand coverage through the ACA exchanges and Medicaid. States that have opted not to expand Medicaid
as part of the ACA have significantly higher rates of uninsured than states that did expand Medicaid.Washington Post decries Price for curbing bundled payments
The Washington Post editorial board criticized HHS Secretary Tom Price
for ordering CMS to scale back its commitment
to bundled payment experiments that began under the Obama Administration. The Post notes that healthcare spending accounts for nearly one-fifth of all spending in the U.S., and argues bundled payments are an essential tool in combatting soaring health care costs. The Post cites studies that indicate bundled-payment programs reduce costs, cut waste and encourages collaboration between practitioners as evidence that bundled-payments are a essential tool that should be embraced by the Trump Administration.
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