Latest Morning Briefing Stories
Politico reports on the escalating feud between HHS Secretary Alex Azar and CMS Administrator Seema Verma and the disruptions people close to the situation say it has caused. Privately, Azar’s and Verma’s camps are pointing the finger at one another, and disclosures about Verma’s use of highly paid consultants to raise her personal profile exacerbated the tensions.
Reports that Brigham Young University-Idaho wouldn’t accept Medicaid as acceptable insurance for students prompted an outcry of criticism. The university had claimed the change was due to the impracticality for the local medical community to provide for the health care needs for the students, but local providers disputed that reasoning.
CMS revamped its system to help beneficiaries navigate Medicare enrollment, but the newly redesigned tool has been causing confusion for many instead. The flawed results being shown include inaccurate premium estimates, incorrect prescription drug costs and inaccurate costs with extra help subsidies.
While many in Congress are agreed that something must be done to address surprise medical bills, the lawmakers have been split over which of a handful of strategies to choose in moving forward. In other health industry and insurance news: record-high debt, gender pay gaps, state health exchanges, and more.
Warnings are being issued at all levels of the party–from union members to candidates running in swing states. “We won in Kentucky and Louisiana, barely, in part, because we won on health care. I don’t think we can afford to lose on health care,” Gov. Gina Raimondo (D-R.I.) said. Meanwhile, industry opponents for “Medicare for All” are starting to go after the moderates’ health plans as well. In other election news, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) has a plan to expand mental health treatment.
A so-called “public option” would allow people to buy a government-run health plan that competes with the private marketplace. In previous years, the policy was considered extreme, while now it’s starting to sound like the moderate option in the current political landscape. Meanwhile, Politico takes a look at the army being built to fight “Medicare for All.”
During open enrollment season, health experts say to watch out for “junk” insurance plans that were expanded under the Trump administration and don’t have to meet standards set by the Affordable Care Act. Meanwhile, investors are betting that the Supreme Court rules in favor of insurers in a case over “risk corridor” payments.
Even those who have been prioritized with the most need are facing a daunting wait-list for care. “We need to help legislators understand in the long run it’s better to support these individuals now,” said Erin Suelmann, executive director of the Down Syndrome Association of Greater St. Louis. “It’s a moral issue, too. These are our most vulnerable population and we need to be caring for them.” Medicaid news comes out of Ohio, Colorado and Pennsylvania, as well.
The Medicare plan finder’s issue stems from a significant change the agency made for 2020. The plan with the lowest premium now gets automatically placed on top, with the monthly premium displayed in large font. Medicare’s previous plan finder automatically sorted plans by total cost, not just premiums, because they are only one piece of information. Meanwhile, a new study shows that Medicare prescription plans are slower to cover new generics than private plans.
The Democrats wrote a letter to the Trump administration pointing to an analysis that found that as many as 100,000 fewer people signed up on the first day of enrollment this year because of the technical glitches. Meanwhile, KHN offers advice on navigating open enrollment season.
Media outlets report on news from Illinois, California, Louisiana, Connecticut, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Indiana, Wisconsin, Oregon, and Massachusetts.
A new study from the Commonwealth Fund details how many Americans who have coverage through their employers are still spending too much of their paychecks on health care costs.
The prices negotiated between hospitals and insurers has long been held in secret, and hospitals say that the rule would hurt competition. “What they’re doing is illegal,” said Tom Nickels, executive vice president of the American Hospital Association.
Brokers often make higher commissions on the short-term “junk” plans, health policy experts say, which gives them an incentive to sell them. In other insurance news, Americans struggle to find affordable mental health care coverage.
Media outlets offer Medicaid news from across the country.
“Medicare for All” has been center stage in most of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary debates, often acting as a proxy for a bigger conversation about the moderate and progressive wings of the party. But on Wednesday night, the candidates moved on from the issue quickly.
If Congress doesn’t increase the amount of designated money by the end of the year, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam say they would need to cut their Medicaid rolls in half, while Puerto Rico says it would need to cut back dental and prescription drug services. Medicaid news comes out of Kansas and North Carolina, as well.
Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa says that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is blocking the legislation because he wants to hurt her reelection chances. Meanwhile, Schumer says Ernst’s version of the bill shows she “is simply afraid of the NRA.”
Politico has obtained emails that show federal officials and contractors discussing the possibility of boosting CMS Administrator Seema Verma’s public persona with high-profile articles in magazines like Glamour. Federal officials are prohibited from spending taxpayer dollars for publicity purposes, or using their public office for private gain. In other news, Verma criticized hospitals and insurers for fighting against price transparency efforts.
With Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) refocusing attention with her new plan on how to pay for “Medicare for All,” the topic is likely to get plenty of airtime at Wednesday night’s debate.