ObamaCare Watch Newsletter 3/23/18

  • Insurance Market Stabilization Out: A Look at Congress’ Spending Omnibus –
  • Life Support for ObamaCare –
  • Abortion Over ObamaCare –
  • Trump’s Health Chief Wants to Change How Doctors Do Business –
  • Why Your Doctor’s Computer Is So Clunky –
  • Republicans’ Quiet Health Victory –
  • Why Medicaid Expansion Is a Bad Deal for Virginians –
  • Democrats Coalesce Around Health Care for 2020 –

Spending Bill Excludes ACA Stabilization

Insurance Market Stabilization Out: A Look at Congress’ Spending Omnibus
By Susannah Luthi
Modern Healthcare, March 21, 2018

Of the $88 billion HHS appropriation announced Wednesday night [and passed Thursday night], not a penny is going toward Obamacare. Congress is however extending oversight requirements on HHS regarding its administration of the health exchanges. Congressional leaders released the long-awaited $1.3 trillion, two-year spending omnibus after days of wrangling behind closed doors over contentious policies that included an embattled stabilization package for the individual market that would fund cost-sharing reduction payments and a $30 billion reinsurance pool. The bill now awaits President Trump’s signature.

Life Support for ObamaCare
By Editorial Board
The Wall Street Journal, March 19, 2018

Congress is debating how to handle cost-sharing reductions, which are payments to insurers for defraying out-of-pocket costs or deductibles for low-income individuals. The Trump Administration last year stopped the payments the Obama administration had been making. Congress had declined to appropriate the money, and a federal judge said the Obama Administration wrote the checks illegally. Republicans are betting they can save their short-term political futures by making the payments and keeping ObamaCare on life support. But without meaningful reform that offers more health-care freedom, the real price will be the law’s ultimate preservation.

Abortion Over ObamaCare
By Editorial Board
The Wall Street Journal, March 20, 2018

Democrats revolted against this week’s spending package because the deal includes the 1970s Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funds from subsidizing abortion. The left claims this is some new GOP initiative. But Hyde protections have long applied to: Medicaid, Medicare, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Indian Health Service, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, the military health-care program Tricare, among others, as Republicans have pointed out. Such guarantees are standard for appropriations bills.

Trump Administration Priorities

Trump’s Health Chief Wants to Change How Doctors Do Business
By John Tozzi
Bloomberg Businessweek, March 21, 2018

On March 5, the Trump administration’s top health official told a conference of hospital executives to hurry up. Washington has spent more than a decade slowly nudging the medical industry away from treating health care as a volume commodity business, where more care is better, and toward incentives that reward improving patients’ health. In all that time, almost nothing has changed. “That transition needs to accelerate dramatically,” said Alex Azar, a former Eli Lilly and Co. executive who was confirmed as secretary of Health and Human Services in January.

Why Your Doctor’s Computer Is So Clunky
By Marion Mass and Kenneth A. Fisher
The Wall Street Journal, March 20, 2018

The Trump administration this month announced its own effort to update the Electronic Health Record systems, which disrupt the doctor-patient relationship. The government could do even more good by deregulating EHRs, establishing a free market for user-friendly products. Perhaps Amazon, through its partnership with JP Morgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway, could eventually do for medicine what it’s done for retail.

Medicare and Medicaid

Republicans’ Quiet Health Victory
By Bobby Jindal
The Wall Street Journal, March 21, 2018

When Republicans failed to repeal ObamaCare last year, it recalled the old line about snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. That loss, however, should not be allowed to overshadow an important Republican success on health care. Millions of Medicare beneficiaries now get their coverage through private plans under Medicare Advantage—a quiet step forward that brings real benefits. To ensure continued progress, Republicans must resist the temptation to choose short-term savings over long-term reform.

Why Medicaid Expansion Is a Bad Deal for Virginians
By Brooklyn Roberts
RealClearPolitics, March 9, 2018

As the debate continues in Virginia over whether to expand Medicaid, it is crucial to look at what the outcome has been for other states that have already expanded their programs. Thirty-one states have taken this step under the provisions laid out in the ACA. The ACA expanded Medicaid eligibility to able-bodied adults below 138% of the federal poverty level, and covered 100% of the cost of the expansion enrollees for the initial period. That percentage declines, and by the year 2020 the federal government will only cover 90% of the cost of expansion enrollees. With funding after that unclear, residents of Virginia will face an unknown future of Medicaid [and, if other states experience is a guide, greater enrollment than anticipated and much higher state spending on Medicaid].

Looking to 2020

Democrats Coalesce Around Health Care for 2020
By Jonathan Bernstein
Bloomberg View, March 22, 2018

Big news on the health care policy front: Democrats appear to be converging on an actual agenda if they win in 2020. Senator Elizabeth Warren introduced new legislation on Wednesday that policy guru Charles Gaba calls “ACA 2.0.” This is, as Gaba describes it, more than just patching up Obamacare to make up for the damage done by Congress, states and design flaws in the original bill. It’s an upgraded version of the ACA. At the same time, it’s nowhere close to the various single-payer or “Medicare for all” proposals that liberals have been spending a lot of time talking about over the last two years. [Yet it is, predictably, a further expansion of government control over the health sector.]