Although the Senate failed to repeal or replace the ACA last week, the future of federal health policy remains unclear. So what comes next in terms of health reform.
Given the uncertainty surrounding federal health policy, HPIO is hosting a series of online seminars where state and national experts will provide analysis of the latest developments in Washington and explain what they could mean for Ohio.
The second of these three online seminars is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Thursday Aug. 24, featuring Robert Laszewski, President, Health Policy and Strategy Associates, Inc. and author of the Health Care Policy and Marketplace Review. Laszewski is an influential national expert on the healthcare market. His writing has appeared in Forbes, Kaiser Health News and other national publications. In addition, his consulting clients include health insurance companies, casualty insurance companies, HMOs, Blue Cross organizations, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and physician groups.
Democratic and Republican governors on Wednesday urged the Trump administration, as well as Congress, to continue funding payments to health insurance companies that make Obamacare plans affordable, calling it critical to stabilizing the insurance marketplace (Source: “U.S. governors urge Trump to make insurance payments,” Reuters, Aug. 2, 2017)
Republican President Donald Trump, frustrated that Obamacare survived attempts to repeal it, has threatened to cut off about $8 billion in subsidies that help control costs for low-income Americans under the Affordable Care Act.
"The Administration has the opportunity to stabilize the health insurance market across our nation and ensure that our residents can continue to access affordable health care coverage," said a statement by the Health and Human Services Committee of the National Governors Association.
Some Congressional Republicans have joined Democrats in urging Trump to continue the payments. Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, chairman of the health committee, said Tuesday the president should pay the subsidies through September while lawmakers work on bipartisan legislation to fund the outlays for another year.
But the Senate's No. 2 Republican John Cornyn hesitated when asked Wednesday if he would support such legislation. "I've said before that I'm not in favor of throwing money at insurance companies without reform, so that’s going to be the nature of the conversation," Cornyn told reporters outside his office.
Officials with the Ohio Department of Insurance announced this week that they have worked with five health care insurers to cover 19 Ohio counties that otherwise wouldn’t have had a health insurance option on the federal health care exchange next year (Source: “Health care in Ohio: 19 counties to again have insurance option,” Associated Press via the Lorain Morning Journal, July 31, 2017).
ODI joined Buckeye Health Plan, CareSource, Medical Mutual of Ohio, Molina Health Care of Ohio and Paramount Health Care in the announcement Monday.
Two major insurers had announced earlier this year that they would leave the exchange in 2018, leaving Ohioans in 20 counties without an option on the exchange. The department’s statement says it’s working to restore coverage in the 20th county, Paulding, before late September.
The 19 counties are: Coshocton, Crawford, Guernsey, Hancock, Harrison, Hocking, Holmes, Jackson, Knox, Lawrence, Logan, Morgan, Muskingum, Noble, Perry, Van Wert, Vinton, Williams and Wyandot.
Ohio has failed a recent evaluation by the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network, meeting just three of the network’s nine public policy goals aimed at reducing cancer diagnoses and deaths (Source: “Ohio fails on cancer-control policies, study finds,” Columbus Dispatch, Aug. 3, 2017)
The state was highly criticized in three areas: for not prohibiting minors from using tanning beds; for allocating just 10.3 percent of the federal government’s recommended funding level for tobacco-control programs; and for appropriating less than one-third of matching funds to a federal award for breast and cervical cancer screening programs.
The report, released Thursday, focuses on tobacco cessation, access to care and quality-of-life issues, said Jeff Stephens, the network’s government relations director.
“Ohio is just sort of average,” Stephens said. “We’ve missed some big opportunities in the last handful of years, particularly in the past two biennial budgets, with really attacking the issues around tobacco control.”
On the plus side, Ohio was singled out for being one of just four states that protect the most residents from secondhand smoke and one of just nine states that provide the most comprehensive tobacco cessation coverage through Medicaid. Ohio also was mentioned for being among the states that expanded Medicaid coverage to include families earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level ($12,060 a year for the first person in a family, and $4,180 for each additional person).
The U.S. Senate in the early hours of Friday morning rejected a new, scaled-down Republican plan to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act, derailing the Republicans’ seven-year campaign to dismantle President Barack Obama’s signature health care law (Source: “Senate Rejects Slimmed-Down Obamacare Repeal as McCain Votes No,” New York Times, July 27, 2017).
Republican senators Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and John McCain of Arizona joined all 48 Democratic senators in opposing the bill.
The “skinny repeal” bill, as it became known at the Capitol this week, would have increased the number of people who are uninsured by 15 million next year compared with current law, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Premiums for people buying insurance on their own would have increased roughly 20 percent, the budget office said.
The new, eight-page Senate bill, called the Health Care Freedom Act, was unveiled just hours before the vote. It would have ended the requirement that most people have health coverage, known as the individual mandate. But it would not have put in place other incentives for people to obtain coverage — a situation that insurers say would leave them with a pool of sicker, costlier customers. It would also have ended the requirement that large employers offer coverage to their workers.
With so many senators in both parties railing against the fast-track procedures that Republican leaders used, a return to health care seemed certain to go through the committees, where bipartisanship and deliberation are more likely.