AHC Newsletter | 07-27-2018


HHS Secretary Alex Azar Promotes Free-Market Principles in Health Sector

Trump Aims to Increase Value and Decrease Costs of Health Care, HHS Secretary Says
By Rachel del Guidice
The Daily Signal, July 26, 2018Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Thursday that the Trump administration is working to deregulate health care with the goals of reforming the individual insurance market, lowering prescription drug prices, and creating a “value-based” health care system. “Today, fixing American health care requires disrupting government-dictated systems, building new ones that encourage choice and competition, and … letting private innovators chart the future and refusing easy gimmicks takes some courage,” Azar said in a speech at The Heritage Foundation’s headquarters on Capitol Hill.  Here is a link to the text of Sec. Azar’s remarks, and here is a link to the webcast.

Legislative Action
House Passes Bills Expanding Health Savings Accounts
By Richard Stolz
Employee Benefit News, July 26, 2018The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed two bills that would expand the use of HSAs, a move that, if passed in the Senate, could significantly drive higher enrollment in high-deductible health plans that feature HSAs. The Restoring Access to Medication and Modernizing Health Savings Accounts Act, or HR 6199, repeals the medical device tax and takes steps to modernize HSAs by allowing plans to provide coverage before the deductible is met, allowing coverage through Direct Primary Care, and treating certain over-the-counter drugs as qualified medical expenses. It passed 277-142.  A companion bill, the Premium Plans and Expanding Health Savings Accounts Act, passed 242-176. It allows people to contribute more money to their HSAs and delays the Cadillac tax by two years, among other changes.House Votes to Delay ObamaCare Health Insurance Tax
By Peter Sullivan
The Hill, July 25, 2018The House on Wednesday passed a measure to delay ObamaCare’s health insurance tax for two years and expand Health Savings Accounts, part of a GOP effort to try to lower premiums. The bill, which passed 242-176, is part of a Republican effort to blunt Democratic attacks on the GOP for rising premiums—a key argument in the midterm elections this year. The health insurance tax has been criticized by Republicans and some Democrats for driving up premiums. “This is a flawed tax that gets passed onto American families,” Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) said on the House floor.

Election-Year Devices
By the Editorial Board
The Wall Street Journal, July 24, 2018

The House voted to repeal the 2.3% excise tax on medical devices that was part of the Affordable Care Act. Because the tax hits sales, companies must pay it even if they aren’t profitable—which makes it especially damaging for new firms short on cash. “This bill reverses a harmful tax that is hurting job growth and innovation across the country,” said chief sponsor Erik Paulsen (R-MN), whose state is home to Medtronic and other device companies. Congress has suspended the tax twice, but the moratorium expires in January 2020. The House vote was bipartisan and overwhelming, with all but one Republican and 57 Democrats in favor, and 131 Democrats against.

There’s No Case Against Medical Device Tax Repeal
By Nicole Kaeding and Alec Fornwalt
Washington Examiner, July 23, 2018

The Medical Device Tax ends up raising prices for consumers, who bear the brunt of it but don’t see this line item on any bills they pay. The tax applies to sales, not profits, so it disproportionately impacts smaller firms. It also hurts smaller businesses because of its complexity.On the flip side, repealing the tax would result in those jobs returning to the industry within a few short years.The tax disproportionately hurts smaller businesses, is complex to administer, harms the medical device industry, and saddles consumers with additional hidden costs. Repealing the tax would give the medical device industry much-needed certainty and add to the policy success of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  The measure awaits Senate action.

Safety Net and Entitlement Reform 
Paul Mango Appointed to Trump Administration Post at CMS
By Wes Venteicher
Tribune Live, July 26, 2018Former Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate Paul Mango is joining President Donald Trump’s administration as a high-ranking official at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Mango will be chief principal deputy administrator and chief of staff for CMS Administrator Seema Verna, the agency announced Wednesday. Mango worked for international consulting firm McKinsey & Company as the head of its U.S. Center for Health Reform before running for the gubernatorial nomination, (losing to Scott Wagner). Mango said in the campaign that he supports modernizing Medicaid, the state-federal health care program for people with low incomes and disabilities, into a block grant format.Save The Safety Net Drug Program For Patients Who Need Help
By Grace-Marie Turner
Forbes, July 19, 2018The safety net drug program, usually referred to as 340B for the section authorizing it in the Public Health Service Act, was created by Congress in 1992 to require pharmaceutical companies participating in Medicaid to provide their drugs at deeply discounted prices to hospitals and other facilities that serve a disproportionate number of indigent and uninsured patients.To protect the program and the people who rely on it, it is time to set the PAUSE button and make both regulatory and legislative changes to keep the safety net drug program focused on its mission to provide needed medicines to needy patients. Greater oversight, transparency, and accountability would help make sure it helps those for whom it was designed rather than lining the pockets of hospital systems.

Trump Administration to Push Forward on Medicaid Work Requirements After Court Loss
By Jessie Hellmann
The Hill, July 26, 2018

The Trump administration on Thursday said it would continue approving Medicaid work requirement requests from states, despite a district court ruling last month that blocked such requirements in Kentucky. HHS Secretary Alex Azar said the ruling was a “blow” to the administration’s efforts to encourage work among “able-bodied” adults in the Medicaid program, but said he is “undeterred” and proceeding forward.  “We are fully committed to work requirements and community participation requirements in the Medicaid program,” Azar said.

Top Trump Health Official Slams ‘Medicare for All’
By Nathaniel Weixel
The Hill, July 25, 2018

In a speech on Wednesday at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said adopting a government-run health-care system would put seniors at risk. “Ideas like ‘Medicare for all’ would only serve to hurt and divert focus from seniors,” Verma said. Verma said the focus of Medicare should be on seniors and disabled individuals and that expanding the program to cover younger, healthier people will drain the program of funding and deprive seniors of the coverage they need.

ObamaCare Is Robbing Medicaid’s Sickest Patients
By Allysia Finley
The Wall Street Journal, July 25, 2018

ObamaCare gave states the option, starting in 2014, to expand Medicaid eligibility to able-bodied people earning up to 133% of the poverty line. The feds promised to pick up nearly all the costs. Two-thirds of states have cashed in on this “free” government lunch. Between 2008 and 2016, Medicaid enrollment nationwide rose 24 million to a total of 71 million, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. By comparison, only five million more Americans signed up for plans on the private individual market.