Latest Morning Briefing Stories

Medicaid Work Requirements Move Forward In Iowa State Senate

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The measure, if it becomes law, would require weekly work hours for Medicaid recipients but carves out people with physical and mental conditions. It’s one of several measures moving through red states that would impose restrictions on the program. Medicaid news comes out of New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, as well.

Medicare Advisers Say ‘Donut Hole’ Changes To Part D Program Could Lead To Spike In Costs For Everyone But Insurers

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MedPAC said that the way Congress made changes to the Medicare Part D program disincentivizes insurers from trying to manage high drug costs because it puts pharma on the hook for a higher percentage of the drugs. In other news, MedPAC advisers are also expected to call on Congress to boost payments to hospitals, and Medicaid advisers will urge lawmakers to rethink cuts to hospitals.

Beyond Work Requirements, Red States Eye Other Restrictions For Medicaid Programs

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Some states are weighing the possibility of adding drug-testing to their programs, while others are investigating capped payments from the federal government. And as Republican-led states move to further restrict Medicaid, the divide between red and blue states is likely to mean wider geographic disparities in health-care coverage and access. Meanwhile, Ohio’s request to add work requirements has been approved by the government.

As House Dems Assemble Budget, A Health Care Reckoning Is On The Horizon Between Centrists And Progressives

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Where to move forward with health care has become a sharply dividing issue with the Democrats. Moderates want to make improvements to the health law, while the left-wing is charging full-tilt toward “Medicare for All.” With their budget, Democrats will signal what their health care priorities are, and the road to decide that will likely be far from smooth.

Contradictions Lay At The Heart Of Trump’s Health Care Priorities In Proposed Budget

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President Donald Trump wants to give hundreds of millions of dollar to fight the HIV epidemic domestically, yet he is also proposing cutting global aid for the disease, as well calling for sharp spending reductions to Medicaid, a program many people with HIV rely upon. The president has taken aim at childhood cancer and the opioid crisis, but also would chip away at infrastructure in health care that would support those goals. Meanwhile, the Washington Post Fact Checker takes a look at Democrats’ take on the proposed Medicare changes in the budget.

Federal Judge Appears Skeptical Over Financial Argument For Medicaid Work Requirements

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“It seems to me that your fiscal sustainability [argument] relies on the fact that they’re lucky to have Medicaid at all,” said Judge James E. Boasberg who is hearing cases out of Arkansas and Kentucky on whether the Trump administration has the authority to grant states the flexibility to add work requirements to their Medicaid programs. Boasberg hopes to issue both decisions simultaneously before Kentucky’s changes are slated to take effect April 1. Meanwhile, CMS is rolling out new tools to help states apply for a work requirement waiver.

Democrats Seek Information On Short-Term ‘Junk Plans’ That Were Expanded By Trump Administration

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“Many consumers are being misled to believe that these plans comply with the patient protections of the Affordable Care Act,” said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.). The lawmakers want to know how companies market the short-term plans, what percentage of applicants are denied coverage, and what brokers who sell the insurance are paid.

Federal Appeals Court Backs Ohio Anti-Abortion Law That Defunds Planned Parenthood

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An earlier U.S. district court ruling had agreed with Planned Parenthood that denying the organization funding if it continued to perform abortions violated its right to due process. In his opinion Tuesday, Judge Jeffrey Sutton rejected the contention that the Ohio law imposes an unconstitutional condition on public funding. In other news on abortions, House Democrats eye a bill that would repeal a ban on abortion coverage in programs like Medicaid.

If Trump Administration Converts Medicaid Into Block Grants As Proposed In Budget, Dems Warn That Plan Will Face Firestorm Of Opposition

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HHS Secretary Alex Azar faced four hours of questioning at a congressional hearing fending off criticism of President Donald Trump’s proposed budget, which was released yesterday. The plan that drew the most heat was the president’s desire to replace the current open-ended federal commitment to Medicaid with a lump sum of federal money for each state in the form of a block grant, a measure that would essentially cap payments and would not keep pace with rising health care costs. Azar refused to completely rule out the possibility of allowing states to move in that direction. Trump’s proposed Medicare cuts also drew fire from lawmakers.

Trump’s Budget Encourages State Flexibility In Limiting Medicaid Programs To Save Money

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The president’s budget proposes converting all the health law’s funding into block grants. It would also convert Medicaid into a per capita cap system that would dole out funding based on the state’s population. It’s highly unlikely the proposals will make it into law, but it highlights a continued effort by the administration to reshape the Medicaid program. Meanwhile, HHS sees a sharp decrease in funding in the budget.

As Democrats Push To Build Up Medicare, Trump’s Budget Slashes Funding, Setting Up Ideological Showdown For The Parties

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President Donald Trump, in his budget, called for some belt-tightening when it comes to Medicare in aim to reduce “waste, fraud and abuse” in the popular program. Democrats seized on the proposed Medicare cuts as an example of the GOP seeking to balance the budget on the backs of the elderly and the poor after giving broad tax breaks to the wealthy. Meanwhile, hospitals came out as vocally opposed to the deep cuts.

Inside Trump’s $4.75 Trillion Budget: Inflated Economic Expectations, Sharp Cuts To Safety Net Programs, Red Meat For His Base

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President Donald Trump released his $4.75 trillion budget, which included a big increase in military spending and deep cuts to other domestic spending. The presidential budget is all but dead-on-arrival on Capitol Hill and can be viewed more as a symbolic roadmap for priorities than a realistic spending plan. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Trump’s cuts “cruel and shortsighted … a roadmap to a sicker, weaker America,” while other Democrats were also quick to condemn the proposal.

Supreme Court Upholds Decision That Medicaid Must Cover Women’s Sex Reassignment Surgery

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The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that the argument that the policy’s explicit exclusion of gender-reassignment surgeries was merely a specified example within the broader category of “cosmetic, reconstructive, and plastic surgeries” that were excluded from coverage was invalid. “The [department] expressly denied Good and Beal coverage for their surgical procedures because they were ‘related to transsexualism … (or) gender identity disorders’ and ‘for the purpose of sex reassignment,'” Justice Susan Christensen wrote, citing segments of the policy.

House Democratic Leadership Tries To Temper ‘Medicare For All’ Enthusiasm By Focusing On Price Tag

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Both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee head Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) spoke recently about concerns over the cost of “Medicare for All” legislation. Progressive Democrats, however, continue to push for a vote this year on the proposal, setting up a showdown between the two sides of the party. In other news from Capitol Hill: gun violence, disaster funding, and military housing.

Hickenlooper Officially Tosses Hat Into 2020 Ring: Here’s Where The Moderate Governor Stands On Health Issues

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John Hickenlooper, the former governor of Colorado, says he supports the concept of universal health care coverage, but does not back plans such as “Medicare for All.” He was serving as governor at the time of the Aurora, Colo. mass shootings, and recently spoke out about gun control. “Gun violence is the real national emergency plaguing our nation,” he tweeted after the shooting last month in Illinois.