In This Edition:
From Kaiser Health News:
Insurers can reduce benefits or change cost sharing, but they are generally supposed to tell enrollees about the change beforehand. And although plans must tell patients when they are denied coverage, sometimes treatment is affected for other reasons. (Michelle Andrews, 9/12)
Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Bored Stiff?'" by Hillary B. Price.
Here's today's health policy haiku:
HERE’S ONE REASON WHY HAVING A BABY IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA IS SO EXPENSIVE
In health care markets
Leads to higher costs.
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Summaries Of The News:
Lawmakers are asking House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) to hold bipartisan hearings on solutions to stabilize the marketplace. Meanwhile, over in the Senate, Democrats worry Republicans are digging in their heels too much on state waivers, and Sen. Ran Paul (R-Ky.) says he does not support the Graham-Cassidy bill.
The Hill: Dems Call For ObamaCare Hearings In The House
Democrats are calling on House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) to hold bipartisan hearings on stabilizing ObamaCare markets. The committee's Democrats in a letter to Brady dated last Friday request that the panel hold hearings, and cite the Senate Health Committee’s hearings this month as an example. (Sullivan, 9/11)
The Hill: Dems Worry GOP Pulling Health Care Negotiations In Partisan Direction
It's unclear whether Republicans and Democrats on the Senate's Health Committee will be able to reach a deal by the end of the week on a bill to shore up ObamaCare's insurance markets. But Democrats are worried Republicans are digging in with conservative ideas, ruining changes at negotiation, a senior Democratic aide told The Hill. (Hellmann, 9/11)
The CT Mirror: CT’s Wade Weighs In With Obamacare Fixes
As a key Senate panel continues to seek a bipartisan fix for the Affordable Care Act, the Connecticut Insurance Department on Monday weighed in with its suggestions, including allowing people to buy a new, cheaper, “copper-level” plan with fewer benefits and higher out-of-pocket costs. In a letter to Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, Insurance Commissioner Katharine Wade asked Congress to continue a moratorium on the ACA’s health insurance tax, a levy that will go into effect next year based on the premium dollars an insurer earns. (Radelat, 9/11)
The Hill: Paul: Cassidy-Graham Health Care Bill Not 'Going Anywhere'
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Monday that he opposes a new Republican ObamaCare replacement effort, saying it does not go far enough to repeal the law. Paul told reporters that the bill from GOP Sens. Bill Cassidy (La.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) would “probably” be worse than doing nothing at all on the health law. (Sullivan, 9/11)
Politico Pro: Rand Paul: Graham-Cassidy Repeal Plan 'A Bad Idea'
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Monday said the GOP’s last-ditch plan to repeal Obamacare is a “bad idea” that he doesn’t see going anywhere. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) are scrambling to get the 50 GOP votes needed to pass their Obamacare repeal bill before the end of the month, when the Republicans' fast-track option to pass legislation with a simple majority expires in the Senate. (Haberkorn, 9/11)
The government has slashed funding for the organizations that help people enroll in coverage through the Affordable Care Act. Health reform experts predict that without adequate navigator services, enrollment in the exchanges will plummet.
Modern Healthcare: With Funding Slashed And No Contracts In Hand, ACA Marketplace 'Navigators' Are Shutting Down
Navigator groups that help educate and enroll consumers in the Affordable Care Act insurance exchanges are shutting down because the federal government isn't paying them. Several navigator organizations, including the University of South Florida, which received the country's largest federal grant for navigation services in 2016, are suspending education and outreach activities ahead of the 2018 open enrollment period that is slated to begin Nov. 1. (Livingston, 9/11)
In other health law news —
The New York Times: For One Hedge Fund, A Bet On The Affordable Care Act Sours
Wagering that the new federal health care law would be a boon, the billionaire investor Larry Robbins bet big on hospital stocks five years ago. Those investments helped propel his hedge fund, Glenview Capital Management, to the ranks of the top-performing funds in 2013. Since then, the bet has soured. Glenview suffered steep losses as the stocks of many for-profit hospital chains sank, hurt by weak earnings and, more recently, by uncertainty over the lasting impact of the law, the Affordable Care Act. (Creswell and Abelson, 9/11)
Bloomberg: Equifax Holds Contract To Verify Data Of Obamacare Customers
Equifax Inc., which said last week it suffered a breach that exposed the personal data of 143 million Americans, holds a contract to check incomes and other data of people who bought health insurance in the Obamacare markets. The credit data firm has a $329 million, five-year government contract which ends in March to verify the incomes of people purchasing coverage through the health exchanges. The Affordable Care Act provides subsidies to help people afford health insurance depending on their income levels. (Edney and Murphy, 9/11)
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a bipartisan bill last week providing $36.1 billion for the health institutes. Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said it was the third consecutive year in which he had secured a $2 billion increase for the agency, and, in a separate hearing the audience erupted in applause when Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, announced the boost in funding.
The New York Times: Congress Rejects Trump Proposals To Cut Health Research Funds
Back in March, when President Trump released the first draft of his budget proposal for the coming fiscal year, he asked lawmakers for deep cuts to one of their favorite institutions, the National Institutes of Health — part of a broad reordering of priorities, away from science and social spending, toward defense and border security. Six months later, Congress has not only rejected the president’s N.I.H. proposal; lawmakers from both parties have joined forces to increase spending on biomedical research — and have bragged about it. (Pear, 9/11)
In other news from Capitol Hill —
The Hill: Booker Signs On To Sanders's 'Medicare-For-All' Bill
Sen. Cory Booker is throwing his support behind a "Medicare for all" bill being introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), becoming the latest Democrat floated as a 2020 contender to back the legislation. The New Jersey senator told NJTV News that he would sign on as a co-sponsor of the bill, which is scheduled to be rolled out on Wednesday. (Carney, 9/11)
The governor ordered the reductions after the legislature cut the health budget. Meanwhile, federal officials say that New York Medicaid officials failed to follow rules when making about $1.4 billion in Medicaid payments.
Helena (Mont,) Independent Record: More Than 100 Plead With Lawmakers To Halt Cuts To Medicaid Rates, Saying It Will Cause Death, Suffering
People will die and suffer greatly if the state decides to reduce the rate it reimburses Medicaid providers, ends targeted case management and makes other cuts, according to more than 100 people who begged a state legislative committee to continue its objection to plans by the state health department to lower its budget. (Michels, 9/11)
Montana Public Radio: Montanans Protest $8.6 Million In Proposed Cuts To State Department Of Health
The cuts Montana's Department of Public Health and Human Services is planning are in response to the Legislature cutting its budget by $8.6 million. They would result in lower payments to health care professionals, and end some case-management services. ... The cut in state funding would also mean an even larger loss of federal Medicaid matching funds, of up to $26 million. The federal government pays most of the cost of Medicaid in Montana. (Cates-Carney, 9/11)
MTN/KTVH (Helena, Mont.): MT Legislative Panel Continues To Block Cuts To Services For Poor, Disabled
A legislative committee Monday continued to block more than $20 million in proposed cuts to medical services for the poor and disabled in Montana – although it’s unclear whether the action will ultimately stave off the cuts. The Children, Families, Health and Human Services Interim Committee voted 7-1 to continue until at least November its objection to Bullock administration rules enacting the cuts, which affect services ranging from nursing-home care for the elderly to case management for the mentally ill. ... [Sheila Hogan, director of the state Department of Public Health and Human Services] said the state plans to cut rates paid to Medicaid providers by 3 percent, in response to a state law that directs widespread budget cuts because tax revenue didn’t meet a June 30 target. (Dennison, 9/11)
The Associated Press: US Report Finds $1.4B Problem In New York's Medicaid Program
The state paid out an estimated $1.4 billion in Medicaid funds for long-term care providers who didn't follow the state's rules for the program, according to a federal review of the state's Medicaid system published Tuesday. The report, from the Office of the Inspector General, revealed a large number of providers who failed to document patient assessments, provide community-based services or provide written care plans to patients, all requirements spelled out in their contracts with the state. (9/12)