Ohio voters rejected a proposal Tuesday that sought to curb prescription drug prices paid by the state (Source: “Ohio voters reject Issue 2 ballot measure to curb prescription drug prices paid by state,” Akron Beacon-Journal, Nov. 7, 2017).
The pharmaceutical industry spent an estimated $70 million to oppose Issue 2, the Ohio Drug Price Relief Act, saying it would reduce access to medicines and raise prices for veterans and others. Supporters, led by the California-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, spent close to $17 million in support, saying it would save the state millions of dollars and could force the industry to reduce prices elsewhere.
The measure would have required the state to pay no more for prescription drugs than the Department of Veterans Affairs’ lowest price, which is often deeply discounted.
More than 600,000 people signed up last week for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, significantly beating the pace of prior years as consumers defied President Trump’s assertion that the marketplace was collapsing (Source: “Pace of Sign-Ups Under Affordable Care Act Blows Past Prior Years,” New York Times, Nov. 9, 2017
In a report on the first four days of open enrollment, the Trump administration said Thursday, 601,462 people selected health plans in the federal marketplace, HealthCare.gov. Of that number, 137,322 consumers, or 23 percent, were new to the marketplace and did not have coverage this year through the federal insurance exchange.
Sign-ups averaged more than 150,000 a day last week. By contrast, they averaged 66,000 a day in the first week of open enrollment in November 2014 and 77,600 a day in the first week of enrollment in November 2015. The Obama administration reported data every other week last fall, and the first report showed that sign-ups averaged 84,000 a day.
Voters in 12 Ohio counties agreed this week to raise taxes to fund efforts to address the opioid epidemic (Source: “12 Ohio counties vote to raise taxes in fight against opioid crisis,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, Nov. 10, 2017)
Thirteen counties put issues on the ballot to boost human services departments that have been devastated by the drug crisis. All but one approved the taxes: Voters in Jackson County, in Ohio's Appalachia region, rejected a 1.5 mill levy for children's services that would have raised $813,849 a year for 10 years.
Counties across Ohio are placing more children than ever into foster care because of their parents' addictions to opioids. And those children are staying much longer, as their parents struggle to recover.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General says Ohio owes the federal government $29.5 million for improper bonus payments rewarding the state’s effort to sign up children for Medicaid (Source: “Feds say Ohio owes $29.5M for improper Medicaid bonuses,” Columbus Dispatch, Nov. 7, 2017).
Ohio received $64.5 million in bonus payments from 2010-13, but federal officials say the state overstated its enrollment by including children that did not qualify. The state, according to the inspector general’s report, incorrectly included blind and disabled children in its count.
That, investigators said, caused Ohio to overstate its Medicaid enrollment by between 33,000 and 41,000 per year during that four-year period. That led to unallowable bonus payments of $4.7 million to $10.8 million per year.
The state of Kansas was hit with a similar audit, finding that it owes $17.8 million. The Ohio Department of Medicaid is disputing the findings.
The Republican tax plan unveiled this week in the House would not eliminate the tax penalty for failure to have health insurance, but it would eliminate the deduction for people with very high medical costs (Source: “House Tax Bill Would Scrap Deduction For Medical Expenses,” Kaiser Health News, Nov. 2, 2017)
The medical deduction, originally created in World War II, is available only to taxpayers whose expenses are above 10 percent of their adjusted gross income.
Because of that threshold, and because it is available only to people who itemize their deductions, the medical expense deduction is not used by many people — an estimated 8.8 million claimed it on their 2015 taxes, according to the IRS. But those 8.8 million tax filers claimed an estimated $87 billion in deductions; meaning that those who do qualify for the deduction have very high out-of-pocket health costs.