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Health Exchange Alert Weekly Report - 03/21/2018

  • Parties Kick Off Blame Game As Fate Of ACA Stabilization Hangs In Balance

    Senate Republicans say that they hope to include Affordable Care Act market stabilization in their version of the omnibus package, but are awaiting the release of the House version of the spending bill before unveiling their legislation. Meanwhile, the formerly bipartisan stabilization effort dissolved into partisan bickering, largely over abortion politics, as both sides blamed the other for taking a hard stance on the controversial Hyde amendment.

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  • House Will Not Include ACA Stabilization In Omnibus

    House Republicans on Monday (March 19) announced that the omnibus spending bill will not include funding for cost sharing reduction or reinsurance, due to partisan disagreements surrounding Hyde amendment language. But Senate health Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) told reporters he would try to force a floor vote that would attach funding for cost-sharing reduction payments and reinsurance to the omnibus, and warned that Americans will see premiums skyrocket ahead of the mid-terms if Congress refuses to act.

    551 words

  • Azar Says He Is Not Aware Of Talks On Blocking 'Silver-Loading' In 2019

    HHS Secretary Alex Azar said that he has not been involved in discussions about blocking 'silver-loading' plans in 2019 and is not aware of any agency discussions about ending the practice at the moment.

    381 words

  • Charity Groups Push Bill Requiring Plans To Accept Third-Party Payments

    As stakeholders await regulations that are expected to establish parameters around third parties seeking to pay premiums or other cost sharing on behalf of exchange enrollees -- and which could allow plans to reject those payments -- advocates continue to push legislation that would require issuers to accept the funding as they say the current restrictive policy is harmful and discriminatory. The Access to Marketplace Insurance Act (H.R. 3976) is sponsored by Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and had garnered 127 bipartisan cosponsors as of Tuesday (March 20).

    1364 words

  • New Employer Coalition Aims To Protect ESI From Potential Threats

    Employers groups Tuesday announced the creation of a new coalition that aims to protect employer-sponsored health coverage from threats ahead of the mid-terms, including potential changes to the tax treatment of care or the enactment of a single-payer system. The Partnership for Employer Sponsored Coverage (P4ESC) will also advocate for specific legislative priorities and as part of its announcement threw support behind two pieces of legislation: one that would streamline the ACA's employer reporting requirements and another that aims to expands access to and improve policies related to health-savings accounts.

    451 words

  • Patient Advocacy Groups Seek To Block Short-Term Health Plans In Omnibus

    A coalition of 21 patient advocacy groups urge Congress to reject any language in the forthcoming omnibus bill that would promote short-term health plans, and undermine the promise to protect people with preexisting conditions. The letter comes as Congressional Republicans want to codify the administration's proposed regulation that would define a short-term plans as one that runs for up to 364 days, and goes even further by requiring plans offer guarantee renewal.

    272 words

  • ACA Stabilization Bill Includes CSRs, Reinsurance, Hyde Language

    Days before the March 23 deadline to fund the government, a group of bicameral Republicans released an Affordable Care Act market stabilization package, including funding for cost-sharing reductions, reinsurance, and flexibility surrounding 1332 waivers. The package includes Hyde amendment language preventing federal funds from going to abortion funding, but it is not as strict as some conservatives had hoped, and the legislation does not include White House priorities such as expanding health savings accounts and codifying short-term health plans into law. It remains unclear if the package will make it into the omnibus.

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  • Alexander Details Stabilization Bill With Reinsurance, CSR Funding, Hyde

    The Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation estimate that the marketplace stabilization package introduced by a group of bicameral Republicans Monday (March 19) would cost a total $19.1 billion over the next decade. In a separate estimate, the agencies say funding the CSRs as described in the legislation would save the federal government $29 billion through 2027, but result in fewer enrollees.

    402 words

  • Pro-ACA Experts Dismiss Talk That HHS Could Block 'Silver-Loading'

    Several health experts that support the Affordable Care Act told Inside Health Policy it's highly unlikely HHS may try to bar the so-called "silver-loading" workaround deployed by most state insurance commissioners last fall to mitigate the impact of Trump's decision to end the cost-sharing reduction payments, despite speculation that the department is considering its options.

    1233 words

  • AHIP Taps CEO From Within Its Own Ranks Who Has Criticized Drug Prices

    America's Health Insurance Plans has chosen its chief operating officer, Matt Eyles, as the group's new president and CEO, the trade group announced Wednesday (March 14). Eyles criticized drug makers' high list prices in recent testimony on Capitol Hill.

    180 words

  • Families USA Urges Congress To Reject GOP Stabilization Package

    An influential left-leaning advocacy group, Families USA, is calling on Congress to reject Senate health Committee Chair Lamar Alexander's (R-TN) updated plan to stabilize the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, saying that the proposal would be such a bad deal for low and middle-income consumers that it would be better to maintain the status quo.

    408 words

  • Experts: More Consumers Will Switch To Short-Term Plans Than HHS Predicts

    Several health policy experts assert HHS' prediction that 100,000 to 200,000 people will switch from the Affordable Care Act marketplaces to short-term health plans is a vast underestimate based on pre-individual mandate repeal trends, alleging the department low-balled the number to downplay potential negative effects the short-term plans will have on the ACA marketplaces. The department in its Feb. 20 proposed rule to create longer-duration short-term health plans does not explain the methodology behind its predictions of how many people would switch from the Obamacare markets to less-expensive, less-comprehensive plans.

    700 words

  • Alexander Details Stabilization Bill With Reinsurance, CSRs, Hyde

    Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) took to the Senate floor Thursday to tout the market stabilization measures he and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) are pushing to include in the omnibus bill that must pass by next Friday. The stabilization proposal, which is not yet supported by Democrats, would provide $10 billion a year over three years for reinsurance, three years of cost-sharing reduction funding, open catastrophic coverage for all individuals, add new flexibility to the 1332 waiver process and include Hyde amendment language, according to an internal document being circulated on the Hill.

    734 words

  • GOP Wants To Codify Short-Term Plans As Trade-Off For Stabilization Bill

    Republican lawmakers are making a last-minute pitch to codify short-term health plans as a tradeoff for accepting ACA market stabilization language in the upcoming omnibus spending bill. The GOP measure, recently introduced by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), would allow short-term plans to be a permanent option for consumers and has received support from both the White House and HHS Secretary Alex Azar and is strongly opposed by Democrats.

    751 words

  • Employers Continue Push For Market Stabilization, HSAs In Omnibus

    The American Benefits Council on Wednesday (March 14) urged congressional leaders to include market stabilization measures in the omnibus legislation, stressing that large employers also rely on a stable individual health insurance market. Large employer groups are also pushing for the omnibus to include changes to health savings accounts, including measures that would allow employees to get additional services prior to the deductible. However, sources suggest there a diminishing chance that HSA reforms will make it into the final version despite bipartisan support for the policies.

    666 words