Latest Morning Briefing Stories

Congressional Democrats Have Limited Options Of Blocking Administration’s Block Grant Medicaid Changes

KHN Morning Briefing

Any tough measures aimed at halting the Trump administration’s attempt to shift Medicaid funding into a block-grant system could imperil other bipartisan health efforts members want to pass this year. Meanwhile, because the new plan, dubbed “Healthy Adult Opportunity,” is optional for states, its impact could vary from region to region creating even more geographical health disparities in the country.

Under ‘Medicare For All’ Model, Employers Wouldn’t Have To Pay For Health Insurance. But That Doesn’t Mean Wages Will Go Up.

KHN Morning Briefing

There are conflicting studies about whether employers trade off wages and health insurance costs dollar-for-dollar. That means if they’re no longer responsible for paying for insurance, it doesn’t necessarily mean workers will see a comparable pay bump. Meanwhile, a poll finds that a narrow majority of Americans still favors “Medicare for All” and voters get ready for the Iowa caucus.

CMS Encourages States To Move To Block-Grant Funding For Medicaid While Bracing For Inevitable Court Battle

KHN Morning Briefing

CMS Administrator Seema Verma and the Trump administration rolled out the new plan on Thursday that would allow states to cap Medicaid spending for adults who were enrolled in the program under the health law expansion. The idea has been a long-held goal for Republicans, but critics say the change would jeopardize medical access and care for some of the poorest Americans.

What’s In A Name? Medicaid Block Grant Model Gets A Re-Branding, But Its Objectives Remain The Same

KHN Morning Briefing

CMS is expected to send letters to states today to encourage them to transform their Medicaid programs into a block grant model that has long been a controversial goal for conservatives. CMS Administrator Seema Verma frames the change as a way for states to invest more money into their most vulnerable population, but critics say it will lead to a loss of coverage for many who need it. Meanwhile, dozens of Democrats have warned the Trump administration that the block grants are illegal.

Officials Remain Divided Over Policy, Legal Issues As Trump Administration Pushes Toward Medicaid Block Grants

KHN Morning Briefing

CMS Chief Seema Verma is finalizing a plan to allow states the flexibility to convert their Medicaid programs into block grants. While supporters of the idea say that gives states the freedom to find cost-saving measures, critics warn that it incentivizes states to cut coverage for a vulnerable population. In other Medicaid news: care coordination, coverage for kids, minimum wage increases, and managed care companies.

Wave Of State-Level Bills Restricting Medical Care For Transgender Teens Reignites Polarizing Debate On Issue

KHN Morning Briefing

More than half a dozen states are considering legislation that would penalize doctors for performing certain treatments for transgender patients. The speed and number of state bills has mobilized activists, suicide prevention groups and civil rights organizations. In 2018, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a policy statement that recommended giving youths “access to comprehensive gender-affirming and developmentally appropriate health care,” while noting the benefits and risks of using hormones that delay puberty.

Insurers To Invest $55M In Making Cheaper Versions Of Expensive Generic Drugs In Sign Of Growing Frustration

KHN Morning Briefing

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and 18 of its member organizations are teaming up with Civica Rx, a nonprofit that is already selling drugs used in hospitals to health systems. The move comes not long after California Gov. Gavin Newsom floated a similar proposal, in which the state would contract with outside manufacturers to sell generic drugs under a California label.

Trump Hints He May Be Open To Cutting Medicare, Safety-Net Programs In Shift From 2016 Campaign Promises

KHN Morning Briefing

“At the right time, we will take a look at that. You know, that’s actually the easiest of all things, if you look,” President Donald Trump said in response to a question whether cuts to programs like Medicare and Social Security were on the table. The statement was a departure from the last election when Trump tapped into the popularity of the two programs while wooing voters.

Guidance To Allow States To Request Block Grant Waivers For Medicaid Programs Expected Soon

KHN Morning Briefing

Approving state waivers to change Medicaid funding to block grants would be among the Trump administration’s most controversial moves to reshape Medicaid. While supporters of block granting say it gives states more flexibility, critics warn that it creates incentives for states to cut aid for its most vulnerable populations. Meanwhile, Medicaid expansion advocates are frustrated by the last remaining red-state holdouts.

A Record That Keeps Getting Broken: Hemophilia Treatment Poised To Become Most Expensive Drug In World

KHN Morning Briefing

The gene therapy, which isn’t officially priced yet, was extremely successful in trials. Its maker says that insurers seem on board with paying somewhere between $2 million and $3 million for the drug, which would break the previous record held by Novartis’ spinal muscular atrophy drug. Experts warned when Novartis’ drug was approved at its $2.1 million price that it was setting a bad precedent. In other pharmaceutical news: more updates from the JP Morgan conference, the science behind the Ebola vaccine, a diabetes pill, and more.

Betting On Medicare Advantage Pays Off Big For UnitedHealth

KHN Morning Briefing

UnitedHealth executives said they added 370,000 Advantage members during the open enrollment period that ended Dec. 7, which reflects growth of about 140% over the prior annual enrollment period. As the program grows in popularity, insurers clamor for a piece of the lucrative marketplace.