ObamaCare Watch Newsletter 5/11/18

  • Help Is on the Way for Americans Facing High Drug Prices –
  • Conservative Groups Quietly Pursue New Obamacare Repeal Plan –
  • GOP Chairman in Talks with Trump Officials on More Obamacare Actions –
  • Empowered Patients Are the Future of Health Care – 
  • How the Farm Bill Could Erode Part of the ACA –
  • Obamacare Insurers in Virginia Propose Major Premium Hikes for 2019 –
  • MD’s Obamacare Insurers Request 30 Percent Premium Hike for 2019 –
  • States Can’t Afford Medicaid Expansion — Neither Can Patients –
  • Trump Officials Reject Medicaid Lifetime Limits in Kansas –
  • New Hampshire Becomes Fourth State to Impose Medicaid Work Rules –
  • Today’s Special: Obamacare Menu Labeling Rules Ushered In –

President to Make Drug Pricing Announcement Today

Help Is on the Way for Americans Facing High Drug Prices
By Alex M. Azar II, Scott Gottlieb, Seema Verma
Fox News, May 11, 2018

Americans should be able to reap the rewards of living in the country that has brought the world more new drugs than any other. President Trump has made fixing high drug prices a top priority. He will give a speech on the topic today. HHS is taking on this challenge focused on 1) increasing competition in drug markets, 2) giving Medicare Part D plans better tools to negotiate prices, 3) creating new incentives for drug manufacturers to lower list prices, and 4) new options to lower patients’ out-of-pocket spending.


Obamacare Replacement Plan Coming Along

Conservative Groups Quietly Pursue New Obamacare Repeal Plan
By Alex Ruoff
Bloomberg Law, May 4, 2018

A coalition of policy experts from conservative think tanks and advocacy groups is quietly working to spur Congress to take another shot at overhauling Obamacare before the midterm elections. “Getting the policy right will be key,” former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) said.  Upcoming premium rate announcements will put pressure on Congress to pass legislation. “Members want to talk tax reform and immigration, but what their constituents are talking about is health care,” Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, said. “They’re asking: ‘What are you doing about Obamacare?’”

GOP Chairman in Talks with Trump Officials on More Obamacare Actions
By Peter Sullivan
The Hill, May 8, 2018

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) wrote in a recent letter that bipartisan efforts to fix Obamacare have failed, and he is now turning to focus on additional actions the Trump administration can take on its own regarding the health care law. Alexander worked for months with Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) on a bipartisan effort to provide funding to bring down Obamacare premiums, but the effort fell apart in March. “Given Democrats’ attitude, I know of nothing that Republicans and Democrats can agree on to stabilize the individual health insurance market,” Alexander said. “So now efforts to help Americans paying skyrocketing premiums will turn to the Trump Administration and the states.”

Empowered Patients Are the Future of Health Care
By Seema Verma
RealClearHealth, May 3, 2018

HHS Secretary Alex Azar has put consumers at the heart of one of the department’s priorities: delivering better, cheaper health care by transforming our health-care system into one that pays for value, CMS administrator Seema Verma writes. In particular, she says he has identified transparency around price and quality as essential to informing consumers and driving a value-based transformation. As more Americans face increasing premiums and as insurance plans inflict rising deductibles, patients are demanding the same level of transparency when it comes to cost and value they experience elsewhere in our economy—and for good reason.

How the Farm Bill Could Erode Part of the ACA
By Julie Appleby
Kaiser Health News, May 8, 2018

Some Republican lawmakers continue to try new ways to give consumers more options than expensive Obamacare-compliant policies. That strategy can crop up in surprising places. Such as the farm bill. Tucked deep in the House version of the massive bill—amid crop subsidies and food assistance programs—is a provision that supporters say could help provide farmers with cheaper health insurance than plans offered through the ACA.It calls for $65 million in loans and grants administered by the Department of Agriculture to help organizations establish agricultural-related “association” type health plans.


Premium Increases 

Obamacare Insurers in Virginia Propose Major Premium Hikes for 2019
By Nathaniel Weixel
The Hill, May 4, 2018

Two of Virginia’s Obamacare insurers are requesting significant premium hikes for 2019, according to initial filings released Friday.  Cigna is proposing an average premium increase of 15% for its 103,000 customers in Virginia, with a range of increases from 6.4% to 40%.  CareFirst is proposing a 64% increase for its approximately 4,500 customers in the commonwealth, citing an increase in sicker people entering the marketplace.

MD’s Obamacare Insurers Request 30 Percent Premium Hike for 2019
By Carolyn Y. Johnson
The Washington Post, May 7, 2018

Insurers are proposing double-digit premium increases in Maryland’s individual-health-plan market, a consequence of what the state’s health insurance commissioner called a “death spiral.” CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield requested an 19% increase on the HMO plans used by the vast majority of its individual-plan members—and a whopping, 91% increase on its PPO plans. Kaiser Permanente requested a 37% increase on its HMO plans. The average rate increase requested, across insurers and plans, was 30%.


Medicaid

States Can’t Afford Medicaid Expansion — Neither Can Patients
By Sally Pipes
Forbes, April 30, 2018

Medicaid spending totaled nearly $576 billion in 2016. By 2025, Medicaid is expected to cost$958 billion. Activists pushing for Medicaid expansion refuse to acknowledge these bleak realities. Utah Decides Health care, the advocacy group spearheading the signature-gathering campaign in the Beehive State, claims Medicaid expansion would protect “our state’s most vulnerable citizens.” Research from other states suggests otherwise. Expanding Medicaid to able-bodied, childless adults would wallop taxpayers and divert resources from the truly needy—without improving the health of these newly enrolled beneficiaries.

Trump Officials Reject Medicaid Lifetime Limits in Kansas
By Peter Sullivan
The Hill, May 7, 2018

The Trump administration announced Monday that it is rejecting Kansas’s request to impose lifetime limits on Medicaid benefits. “We have determined that we will not approve Kansas’ recent request to place a lifetime limit on Medicaid benefits for some beneficiaries,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said Monday in a speech at a meeting of the American Hospital Association. “We seek to create a pathway out of poverty, but we also understand that people’s circumstances change, and we must ensure that our programs are sustainable and available to them when they need and qualify for them,” she added.

New Hampshire Becomes Fourth State to Impose Medicaid Work Rules
By Steven Ross Johnson
Modern Healthcare, May 7, 2018

The CMS on Monday gave New Hampshire the green light to impose work rules for some adult Medicaid recipients. It’s the fourth state to win approval for that requirement. The state’s Medicaid 1115 waiver will require adult beneficiaries between the ages of 19 and 64 who aren’t exempt to participate in 100 hours of “community engagement activities” a month to maintain eligibility for coverage. Community engagement is defined as having a job, being enrolled in school, participating in job skills training, or performing some sort of community service.


Implementation

Today’s Special: Obamacare Menu Labeling Rules Ushered In
By Phil Galewitz
Kaiser Health News, May 7, 2018

President Trump is allowing Obamacare rules that require chain restaurants to post calorie counts to go into effect this week. The rules, which are among the final pieces of Obamacare to be implemented, require many restaurants to list calories on all menus and menu boards. Restaurants will also have to provide on-site additional nutritional information, such as fat and sodium levels. The law, intended to nudge Americans to eat healthier, applies to chains with at least 20 stores. Fast-food, sit-down restaurants, grocers, convenience stores, movie theaters, pizza delivery companies and even vending machines must meet the new requirements.