KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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After Months Of ‘Death Spiral’ Hand-Wringing, Marketplaces Have Most Profitable First Quarter Ever

Total profits in 2017 will probably be lower than the first-quarter numbers suggest though, because Q1 earnings are typically higher than subsequent quarters. In other news, Democrats ask Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to take steps to help stabilize the marketplace, while officials announce that 38 percent fewer insurers applied to sell on the federal Affordable Care Act exchange for 2018.

The Washington Post: Obamacare Marketplaces Just Had Their Most Profitable First Quarter Ever
Insurers in the Affordable Care Act marketplaces earned an average of nearly $300 per member in the first quarter of 2017, more than double what they earned in a similar period in the marketplaces’ previous three years, according to new analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. That figure puts insurers on track to make a profit in the marketplaces after years of losses, according to Cynthia Cox, a researcher at the Kaiser Family Foundation who worked on the analysis. (Soffen, 7/10)

McClatchy: New Report Finds Obamacare "Death Spiral" Greatly Exaggerated
For months, Republican leaders from President Donald Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price to House Speaker Paul Ryan have said Obamacare was crumbling under its own weight and could not be saved. And this week, when HHS announced a 38 percent decline in the number of insurers that want to offer coverage next year in states that use the federal marketplace, Price said, “The situation has never been more dire.” But new research released Monday by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that profitability and other financial measures for individual insurers have dramatically improved over the last year. (Pugh, 7/10)

The Hill: Dems To McConnell: Work With Us To Stabilize Health Insurance Market 
Top Senate Democrats are urging Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to take up legislation stabilizing the healthcare insurance market after the Kentucky Republican warned senators would need to act if the GOP's ObamaCare repeal bill fails. Sens. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Patty Murray (Wash.) and Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) — the top four Democrats in the Senate — sent McConnell a letter on Monday asking him to "focus on immediately advancing policies" to stabilize the market. (Carney, 7/10)

Morning Consult: Senate Democrats Want McConnell To Work With Them On Health Care
Democratic leaders are urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to work with them to bolster the nation’s health insurance marketplaces, as lingering disputes among Senate Republicans threaten to derail the GOP effort to overhaul the Affordable Care Act. In a letter sent Monday, as the Senate returned from a weeklong recess, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other top Democrats highlighted several Democratic bills to improve the exchanges created under Obamacare. (Reid, 7/10)

USA Today: Feds Tout Data On Declining Number Of Obamacare Insurers, As Finger Pointing Continues
Federal officials announced Monday that 38% fewer insurers applied to sell on the federal Affordable Care Act exchange for 2018 and used the negative news to renew their pitch to repeal the law. Healthcare.gov is used by the 30 states that don't have their own exchanges. Governors of states that didn't set up exchanges generally opposed the law, while states including California and New York set up their own exchanges have considerably more competition. (O'Donnell, 7/10)

And —

Modern Healthcare: With BCRA Vote Looming, HHS Seeks Comments On Market Stabilization 
HHS is seeking information on how to make the healthcare system more patient-centric by, among other things, encouraging consumer choice in selecting insurance plans. The comment period opened in June in response to President Donald Trump's executive order aimed at easing any economic or regulatory burdens caused by the Affordable Care Act. (Arndt, 7/10)

CQ Roll Call: Trump, House Oppose Intervention In Key Obamacare Challenge
The House and the Trump administration told a federal appeals court Monday that attorneys general from 15 states and the District of Columbia should not be able to intervene in a high-profile lawsuit over 2010 health care law subsidy payments to insurers. The House originally sued the Obama administration over the appropriations process for the so-called cost-sharing subsidies that help especially low-income people afford the co-pays, deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs associated with their health insurance policies. (Ruger, 7/10)

Pioneer Press: Surprise! State Insurance Relief Program Coming In Way Under Budget
Minnesota taxpayers are getting a happy surprise: an expensive new state program is coming in massively under budget. The program in question is a $310 million plan to give 25 percent rebates to eligible Minnesotans’ health insurance premiums. It was passed in January amid estimates that more than 120,000 people might get state-funded discounts. Through the end of April, however, only around 95,000 Minnesotans per month had received the discounts. The total bill through the first third of the year: $46.9 million. If that rate continues for the rest of 2017, the state would only spend $140 million, less than half the projected $310 million cost. (Montgomery, 7/10)

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