Obamacare: Outreach Groups Nervous as Trump Remains Silent on Funding

A year after steep cuts to a key Affordable Care Act outreach program, the Trump administration has remained quiet on how much it will fund nonprofit and grassroots groups that help people sign up for health insurance.

The federal navigator program funds groups that help people sign up for health insurance on the Obamacare federal and state insurance exchanges or assist low-income adult and children sign up for Medicaid coverage.

Navigator groups located in federal exchange states are funded through September but have no idea how much money will be available beyond then. The six-week open enrollment period that allow consumers to choose a plan for the upcoming year begins Nov. 1. Read More at USA Today

Oscar Health to Enter Six New Insurance Markets Despite Obamacare Attacks

Oscar Health said it will sell health insurance in six new markets, an aggressive expansion for 2019 despite continued regulatory and political assault on individual markets by the Donald Trump administration and Republicans in Congress.

The New York startup, which has made a big bet on offering individual coverage under the Affordable Care Act, has expanded Obamacare offerings this year to more states. That expansion into new markets paid off, with the insurer enrolling more than 250,000 in individual products under the ACA for this year.

Now Oscar has filed to offer insurance in nine states and 14 markets in 2019, “nearly doubling” its current footprint . The expansion is possible thanks to growth, improving financial operations and new funding announced earlier this year.

“Our six new markets will be spread across three new states — Florida, Arizona, and Michigan — and three additional large metro areas in Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas,” Oscar CEO and co-founder Mario Schlosser said in announcing the expansion. Oscar’s other co-founder is Josh Kushner, the brother of President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared.

The expansions come despite repeated and ongoing attempts by the Republican-led Congress and Donald Trump White House to end subsidies for individual customers, destabilize the market with unpredictable and 11th-hour regulatory changes and verbally trash the ACA’s individual coverage.

Read More at Forbes

Sen. Alexander to HHS: Help States Riff on Obamacare to Slash Costs

Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander urged the Trump administration to explore ways to make waivers baked into Obamacare a “more powerful tool” for states looking to slash premiums.

Mr. Alexander, Tennessee Republican, said Thursday his bipartisan push to stabilize the Obamacare markets might have fallen apart this year, but the Health and Human Services Department should find ways to forge ahead with parts of the deal that would empower states.

The package would have let states to seek changes to the 2010 law more quickly or submit “copycat” waiver to copy ideas that won approval in other states. He said HHS should solicit ideas from governors and state insurance commissioners and encourage states to apply for wiggle room under the 2010 health law.

“I am turning to you to help Americans harmed by Obamacare by putting states back in charge of health insurance through the State Innovation Waivers,” Mr. Alexander wrote to HHS Secretary Alex Azar and Seema Verma, administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

States like Alaska have used the waiver system to set up a “reinsurance” program that subsidizes pricey customers, so others can pay less, while Hawaii used the program to eliminate a small-business aspect of Obamacare that overlapped with state law.

Read More at The Washington Times

Trump’s Plan to Lower Drug Prices Tests Limits of the Law

In his effort to bring down prescription drug prices, President Trump is testing the limits of a law that prohibits the government from interfering in negotiations between drug manufacturers and insurance companies that provide drug coverage to more than 42 million people on Medicare.

The prohibition was adopted 15 years ago when a Republican Congress added drug benefits to Medicare, and since then Republicans have repeatedly invoked it to quash Democratic demands for the government to rein in drug costs.

But now, with prices of new drugs often topping $10,000 a year, Mr. Trump has unveiled a blueprint to lower drug prices, and some of his ideas envision a larger role for the government.

He wants to require insurers to reduce retail drug prices to reflect the discounts they receive from drug manufacturers. These discounts often take the form of rebates paid to insurers and middlemen known as pharmacy benefit managers.

Read More at The New York Times

1 Big Thing: The Next Health Care Wars

Forget the Affordable Care Act. The future of our health care system will be shaped by a much bigger and broader fight — one that will likely culminate with a 2020 choice between private markets and an authentic government-run program in the form of a Bernie Sanders-style Medicare for All.

  • This is one of America’s great unsolved problems: We have the world’s best care, talent and innovation. But before it gets to patients, the magic goes through a hodgepodge of inexplicable, expensive and unnecessary hurdles.
  • What’s next: The health care debate is no longer a linear fight over a straight repeal of President Obama’s health care law. Instead, it has metastasized into a multifront war.

Read More at Axios

5 Ways States Are Expanding Obamacare

State governments that support Obamacare are resisting efforts by the Trump administration and Congress to scale back the law, and are moving to either expand it or reinstate provisions that were rolled back.

While many red states have tried to loosen Obamacare rules or offer their residents less expensive alternatives, blue states in particular are stepping in with their own proposals. They are re-implementing policies that the Trump administration is trying to gut, or looking to go further to involve the government in health insurance.

Their ideas go beyond expanding the government-funded Medicaid program to low-income people or setting up reinsurance funds to pay for high-cost medical claims, though those proposals are on the table in several states as well. Read More at the Washington Examiner

 

Virginia’s State Senate Just Voted to Expand Medicaid

The Virginia state Senate voted Wednesday to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, with four Republicans crossing party lines to join all Senate Democrats in backing the move.

The House of Delegates, which already passed a version of Medicaid expansion, will need to vote again to make expansion a reality, but the odds now seem overwhelming that Virginia will become the 33rd state to expand Medicaid (Washington, DC, has also expanded).

That’s big news for about 400,000 poor and near-poor Virginians who will gain access to affordable health insurance, and a big deal to the state’s health care providers, who’ll get an injection of clients and money — an important topic for residents of rural areas writ large since expansion helps ensure that hospitals can stay in business, which helps even people who aren’t directly assisted by Medicaid expansion. Read More at Vox

Exclusive: Here Are Details of New Plan to Revive Obamacare Repeal

A group of more than 40 right-of-center healthcare experts led by the Heritage Foundation is expected to release recommendations to Congress next month on a new plan to overhaul Obamacare.

The recommendation would convert Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion and insurance subsidies into a system of block grants to the states, according to a source familiar with the plan, with the exact growth formula to be determined by Congress.

But, unlike previous Republican healthcare plans, it would not make changes to the funding or structure of traditional Medicaid.

The plan would allow states that get the block grant to waive rules requiring plans to have essential health benefits and to maintain a single risk pool and it would give more leeway to insurers to charge more based on age. Read More at the Washington Examiner

CBO Lowers Estimate of Number of Uninsured Due to Republican Tax Law

The government’s scorekeeping agencies revised their controversial estimate for how many more people would be uninsured as a result of changes Republicans and the Trump administration made to Obamacare.

The latest estimates project that zeroing out Obamacare’s fine for going uninsured alone will result in roughly 8.6 million more people becoming uninsured by 2027 than if the fine had been kept in place, compared to the 13 million figure the agencies had released several months ago. Read More at the Washington Examiner

Obamacare Premiums to Rise an Average of 15% Next Year, Says CBO

Obamacare rates are going up next year.

The premium for the benchmark Obamacare silver plan is projected to jump an average of 15% next year, according to a Congressional Budget Office report released Wednesday.

The increase is being driven in large part because people will no longer be penalized for not having insurance, as of 2019. Congress eliminated the penalty associated with Obamacare’s individual mandate as part of its tax reform package last year.

This change alone will cause premiums to be 10% higher because fewer healthy people will buy coverage, leaving insurers with a sicker and costlier group of policyholders, the CBO projected. Read More at CNN.