Latest Morning Briefing Stories

IRS Relaxes Normally Strict Rules To Allow Workers To Make Changes To Health Insurance Plans

KHN Morning Briefing

But the policy change doesn’t require employers to offer these options; they must opt in if they want to give their employees added flexibility. In other insurance and cost news: hospital lobbyists seek higher COBRA subsidies from Congress, UnitedHealthcare to have bigger footprint in ACA marketplace, how Medicaid and ACA subsidies could help recently laid off workers, and more.

A Small Pennsylvania Town Offers Snapshot Of Economic Toll, Political Tensions And Growing Fears

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Manufacturing workers in Hazleton were exempted from Pennsylvania’s stay-at-home order. And then they started getting sick. In other news on the economic toll of the outbreak: recovery is likely to be long and bumpy; why stimulus funds were sent to dead Americans; kids who are U.S. citizens with undocumented parents struggle to get help; and more.

States Making Deep Cuts To Medicaid Programs Just When Their Residents Need It Most

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As states struggle not to collapse beneath the economic burden of the pandemic, they’re eyeing their Medicaid programs — often the largest budget item for a state — as a way to stanch the bleeding. Meanwhile, states are also asking Congress for help to cover astronomical unemployment claims.

Black Georgia Residents Fearful, Mistrustful Of Governor’s Decision To Reopen

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Black Americans are being hit disproportionately hard by the pandemic, and some in Georgia see the states decision to reopen as potentially devastating. “For black folks, it’s like a setup: Are you trying to kill us?” said Demetrius Young, a city commissioner in Albany, the center of the state’s epidemic.

It’s Not Just The Unemployment Totals Digging An Economic Hole, It’s Delays In Benefits To Needy

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Laid-off workers need money quickly so that they can continue to pay rent and credit card bills and buy groceries. But delays in benefits mean they’re going longer and longer without help. That in turn means the hole the economy has fallen into is getting “deeper and deeper, and more difficult to crawl out of.” Meanwhile, the surge of unemployed workers adds extra stress on Medicaid.

Trump’s Health Strategy For Paying Hospital Costs Mirrors A Single-Payer System. Could That Shift Debate In Years To Come?

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During President Donald Trump’s tenure, his administration has chipped away at the health law and attempted to make moves on transparency and drug costs. But his legacy might be expanded federal health spending that looks a lot like his political foes’ dreams. Meanwhile, Politico looks at what the president said he’d do and what he’s actually done during the pandemic.

Health Law Marketplaces Provide Ready-Made Infrastructure For Influx Of Uninsured Americans. But Will Trump Support Them?

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The Trump administration seems to be doing little to let Americans know they can sign up for health insurance through the exchanges if they lost their jobs because of the pandemic. Meanwhile, some states take steps to help people get on Medicaid during this tumultuous time. But in states where the program hasn’t been extended, Americans are struggling.

Advocates Say Detained Immigrants Lack Protective Gear, Cleaning Supplies And Space To Allow Social Distancing

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The government has started to lower the number of detainees being held, but advocates and lawyers say that not enough is being done to protect the vulnerable population. “We don’t have any social distance within us,” said the detainee. “We are just living by the grace of God.” Meanwhile, states appeal to the Supreme Court justices to block Trump administration rules that penalize legal immigrants from seeking public benefits.

Hospitals That Want To Use Stimulus Funds For COVID-19 Patients Must Agree To No ‘Surprise’ Medical Bills

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The stimulus bill includes $100 billion for the health care system to use to treat coronavirus patients, and the White House said hospitals that accept the grants will have to certify that they won’t try to collect more money than the patient would have otherwise owed if the medical attention had been provided in network. Meanwhile, lawmakers may use the next stimulus package to help address the broader issue of surprise medical bills. News outlets report on other insurance coverage and Medicaid developments, as well.

Virus Outbreak Seems To Hit Black Americans At Alarming Rate But Lack Of Data Obstructs Full Picture

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Data on race and the impact of COVID-19 is too limited so far to draw conclusions, experts say. But disparate rates of sickness and death is emerging in many African-American and Latino communities. “We cannot have a colorblind policy,” Stephen Thomas, director of the University of Maryland’s Center for Health Equity tells Politico. “With a colorblind policy — ‘Hey, we’re all in this together’ — we’ll be left with an explosion of Covid-19 concentrated in racial and ethnic minority communities.”

Advocates Say There Must Be Investment In Medicaid Which Will Likely Become Default Insurance Plan For Many

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As unemployment surges, Medicaid will likely see a reflective wave of new enrollees. But hefty investments into the program will be needed to absorb those extra costs. “You definitely see in the data that as unemployment goes up, the Medicaid rolls go up,” said Josh Bivens, of the Economic Policy Institute. “That’s good, and it’s supposed to happen: It’s a safety net. But this is a quick enough shock that it could be a huge financial burden on Medicaid systems across the states.”

Trump Suggests Health Law Enrollment Might Be Reopened After His Administration Decided Against It

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When President Donald Trump was asked what people should do who lose their jobs because of the outbreak and don’t qualify for Medicaid, he said, “I think it’s a very fair question . . . and it’s something that we’re really going to look at because it doesn’t seem fair.” Earlier in the week, administration officials said they would not launch a special enrollment session. Meanwhile, data released from last year’s health law enrollment for show about 11.4 million consumers signed-up for 2020 exchange coverage.