AHC Newsletter | 07-20-2018

Congressional Action to Address Rising Premiums

3 Roskam Bills Promoting Access to Health Savings Accounts Pass House Committee
The Ripon Advance, July 16, 2018

The House Ways and Means Committee has advanced 11 bills, including three introduced by U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL), to expand access to Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), which are currently used by more than 25 million Americans. HSAs save both individual policyholders and taxpayers money by promoting consumer-driven health care and using market competition to keep down costs, according to a statement from the congressman’s office. “Health care reform should empower individuals and families to make decisions for themselves based on what fits their needs and budget,” said Congressman Roskam, who chairs the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health.

GOP Looks to Blunt Dems’ Attacks on Rising Premiums
By Peter Sullivan
The Hill, July 19, 2018

House Republicans are trying to blunt Democratic attacks over rising Obamacare premiums, an issue that’s poised to play a key role in the November midterm elections. “At least we’re taking some action, and rightfully so, because to do nothing I think is just, one, it’s not the right thing to do,” said Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY), a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which advanced many of the health care bills last week. “And second, politically to do nothing is not a [good idea].” The bills slated for votes in the House next week include expanding HSAs and repeal of Obamacare’s medical device tax, which some members of both parties have criticized for driving up premiums.

Choice & Competition Can Help Save Medicare
By Scott Flanders
RealClearHealth, July 19, 2018

The long-anticipated surge of retiring baby boomers is upon us. The Medicare trustees recently estimated that Medicare Part A (the hospital insurance trust fund) will go bankrupt in 2026, only eight years from now—and three years sooner than they predicted in last year’s report. Consumer decisions and behavior provide important clues about where policymakers can go from here. For decades the debate in Washington has centered on benefit expansion, benefit reduction, or tax increases. In the real world, consumers are offering a fourth way to preserve Medicare: choice and competition.

An ObamaCare Tax Worth Keeping
By James C. Capretta
The Wall Street Journal, July 19, 2018

House Republicans want to pass a bill delaying Obamacare’s 40% excise tax on high-cost employer plans—the “Cadillac tax”—by another year, to 2023. GOP hostility to this tax is a mistake. Capping the tax break for job-based insurance is essential for a market-based approach to cost control. The federal government heavily subsidizes every extra dollar spent on job-based insurance, and this undermines the incentive for employers and workers to seek out lower-cost options.Some Republicans believe they can kill the Cadillac tax and replace it later with a better alternative. That’s wishful thinking. If Congress keeps delaying the tax and eventually kills it, there will be no appetite to impose a different version of the same policy.

Drug Prices

Trump Plan to Lower Drug Prices Moves Forward on Several Fronts
By Anna Edney
Bloomberg, July 18, 2018

The Trump administration moved swiftly this week to implement parts of its plan to bring down drug prices. The Health and Human Services Department on Wednesday submitted a proposal to the White House that would curb kickback exemptions that allow drugmakers to offer insurers and pharmacy-benefit managers rebates widely blamed for keeping drug prices high.

On the same day, the Food and Drug Administration released a plan to boost the market for biosimilars—copies of expensive drugs that contain living organisms. On Thursday, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb also said the agency would consider allowing importation of drugs from other countries under certain conditions, including when a generic-drug company that is the sole provider of a medication significantly raises the price of that drug.

Medicare for All

House Dems Launching Medicare for All Caucus
By Nathaniel Weixel
The Hill, July 18, 2018

House Democrats are launching an official Medicare for All Caucus to promote a single-payer health care bill. The caucus, which was officially announced on Thursday, comes as an increasingly larger number of Democrats warm to the idea. The idea, championed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), is now favored by many potential 2020 Democratic presidential contenders. The caucus will launch with about 60 members and will be led by Democratic Reps. Pramila Jayapal (WA), Debbie Dingell (MI) and Keith Ellison (MN), with more expected to sign on in the coming weeks.

Choking on the Cost of ‘Medicare for All’
By Sally Pipes
Forbes, July 9, 2018

Candidates who advocate single-payer on the campaign trail are increasingly balking once they actually get their hands on the levers of power. That’s because single-payer is cost-prohibitive. Even the most dyed-in-the-wool leftists admit as much—after they take office and have to figure out how to pay for their campaign promises.

Single-payer’s champions generally paint a lovely picture of health care utopia. Patients go to see the doctor of their choice whenever they like, get treatment, and leave the clinic without paying a cent. No copays, no deductibles, no cost-sharing, and no referrals—health care is “free” at the point of service. In reality, health care doesn’t magically become free; people just pay for it outside the doctor’s office, in the form of higher taxes.

Medicaid Expansion

Medicaid Expansion Battle Moves to Maine Supreme Court
By Patty Wright
Maine Public, July 18, 2018

The legal dispute over Medicaid expansion came before the Maine Supreme Court Wednesday afternoon. Maine Equal Justice Partners and other consumer advocacy organizations are suing the state to force the LePage administration to implement the voter-approved expansion, and a lower court had ordered the state to file an expansion plan with the federal government. The LePage administration appealed, arguing it can’t implement expansion or comply with the order without funding. Funding has been the central issue with Medicaid expansion politically in Maine, and it’s the central issue before the state Supreme Court.

Idaho Residents Will Vote on Medicaid Expansion in November
By Nathaniel Weixel
The Hill, July 17, 2018

Voters in Idaho will get to decide in November whether the state will expand Medicaid, Secretary of State Lawerence Denney announced Tuesday. Denney certified that an activist group collected the required 56,192 signatures needed to place the measure on the ballot. Supporters of the measure say it would provide coverage for up to 62,000 Idahoans who now fall into a coverage gap, making too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to qualify for subsidized health insurance through the state insurance exchange. Idaho is one of 18 states that haven’t expanded coverage under Obamacare using federal money. Idaho joins Utah as red states where Medicaid expansion will be put to a vote.

Obamacare Premium Increases

California’s ACA Rates to Rise 8.7% Next Year
by Chad Terhune and Pauline Bartolone
Kaiser Health News, July 19, 2018

Premiums in California’s health insurance exchange will rise by an average of 8.7% next year. The average increase in California is smaller than the double-digit hikes expected around the nation, due largely to a healthier mix of enrollees and more competition in its marketplace. Still, health insurance prices keep growing faster than wages and general inflation because of rising medical costs overall, squeezing many middle-class families who are struggling to pay their household bills.