KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

National Medicaid Enrollment Nears 7 Million

The Obama administration released new enrollment figures showing 56 percent of those on the program are children. Meanwhile, Tennessee faces a deadline today for a plan to fix enrollment problems.

Reuters: U.S. Medicaid Enrollment Nears 7 Million Since ACA Rollout
New enrollments in Obamacare's Medicaid expansion and other healthcare programs for the poor have reached 6.7 million people since the launch of President Barack Obama's healthcare reforms last year, the administration said on Friday. The figures, which include state Medicaid plans that existed before Obamacare and the Children's Health Insurance Program, show enrollment climbing by 920,000 people during May, the latest month for which data is available. All told, new enrollments are up 11.4 percent since last October's Obamacare rollout (7/11).

The Hill: Administration Touts Benefits Of Medicaid Expansion For Children
States that expanded access to Medicaid under ObamaCare greatly increased access to healthcare for the poor, especially for children, according to the Obama administration. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a monthly report Friday showing 6.7 million more people had signed up for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) by May compared to last September. The CMS says about 26.4 million children were enrolled in CHIP or Medicaid overall, and 56 percent of all enrollees in the programs are children. The Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the federal government couldn't penalize states for not expanding Medicaid, leading a number of states to opt out of the expansion (Al-Faruque, 7/11).

The Tennessean: Nonprofit Legal Firms Keep Tabs On TennCare
TennCare faces the prospect of lawsuits if it fails to set up a state system for people to apply for Medicaid. Attorneys with the Tennessee Justice Center, Southern Poverty Law Center and National Health Law Program are closely watching to see how the agency responds to a federal demand for a correction plan. The plan is expected to be filed Monday. Tennessee ended face-to-face assistance for people seeking Medicaid coverage on Jan. 1, when the Affordable Care Act came into full effect, and, instead, began telling people to apply online at ... Cindy Mann, the federal director of Medicaid programs, put TennCare on notice in a June 27 letter that it had failed to provide required services and gave the state agency 10 days to submit a correction plan (Wilemon, 7/13).

Chattanooga Times Free Press: Gov. Haslam Hits Another Wall On Medicaid Expansion; TennCare Application Process Plan Due Today
He's dealing with a new U.S. Health and Human Services secretary, but Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam is running into the same problem with Sylvia Mathews Burwell as he did with her predecessor when it comes to winning federal approval of his Medicaid-expansion plan. Haslam said Sunday he personally spoke with Burwell, who succeeded Kathleen Sebelius, about his long-stalled effort to gain federal approval for his "Tennessee Plan" on expanding Medicaid to an additional 160,000 low-income people under the Affordable Care Act. The Republican also said he spoke with Burwell about the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services chief's recent harsh critique of his administration's failure to provide an adequate application process for TennCare, the state's version of Medicaid, under the ACA (Sher, 7/14).

In other news, an Arkansas legislator announces plans to further refine that Medicaid program -

Arkansas News: State Senator To Pursue New Waiver For Health Care Innovation
A state senator says he plans to file legislation next year that would authorize Arkansas to seek a federal waiver to allow innovations on health care coverage that could go far beyond what the state did with the so-called private option. Sen. David Sanders, R-Little Rock, one of the architects of the private option, Arkansas’ version of Medicaid expansion, said he will file a bill in the 2015 session to authorize application for an "innovation waiver" under Section 1332 of the federal Affordable Care Act. "The 1332 waivers really give a state wide discretion to customize an approach to health care — waiving complete portions of the Affordable Care Act," he said (Lyon, 7/13).

The Medicaid expansion issue is also coming into play in a variety of campaigns-

Arizona Republic: Medicaid Fight Re-Emerges In GOP Legislative Primaries
Last year's fight at the Arizona Legislature to expand the state's Medicaid program isn't over. It's continuing to play out this summer in the Republican primaries, and the direction of the next Legislature likely hangs in the balance (Pitzl, 7/13).

Sioux Falls Argus Leader: Medicaid A Vital Issue For Wismer In Governor’s Race
Will Medicaid expansion be a winning issue for Susan Wismer in her battle to unseat Gov. Dennis Daugaard? Wismer, the Democratic nominee for governor, is campaigning across the state in favor of covering tens of thousands of low-income South Dakotans in an expanded Medicaid program. She said it not only would help the uninsured but would bolster hospitals by covering medical care they now are absorbing themselves (Montgomery, 7/14).

Hattiesburg American: Medicaid Expansion Could Be Campaign Issue In Senate Races
The debate over whether to expand Medicaid could be a key issue in the competitive Senate races in Louisiana and Mississippi, political experts say. "This is an issue that would seem to have a lot of potential because both states have large populations of uninsured people,'' said Albert Samuels, a political scientist at Southern University in Louisiana. ... The issue is particularly thorny in the Deep South, which has become more conservative and where two of the nation's most competitive Senate races are under way. Republican candidates have sided with GOP Govs. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Phil Bryant of Mississippi, who decline to expand Medicaid. Democrats argue that expansion would help thousands of uninsured and working poor in the two states (Berry, 7/13).

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