Charles Gaba's blog

2018 MIDTERM ELECTION

Time: D H M S

I was originally just planning on comparing the various provisions of the House and Senate Democratic versions of their "ACA 2.0" bills against my own, year-old "If I Ran the Zoo" wish list.

Then I wrote a post about a whole bunch of stand-alone bills in California which Louise Norris alerted me to and decided to throw those into the comparison table as well.

A week or so I noted that activists in Utah had managed to secure enough ballot petition signatures to get full, no-strings-attached ACA Medicaid expansion placed on the ballot this November...superseding legislation signed by the Governor which would otherwise only expand it to fewer than half as many people, while also imposing a work requirement on enrollees:

If approved, the initiative would require the state to expand Medicaid to people making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, and would prohibit enrollment caps.

Under ObamaCare, the federal government would cover 90 percent of the costs of expansion. The state share would be funded through a 0.15 percent increase in the sales tax.

...The ballot initiative would cover more than 150,000 people.

Well, today it looks like residents of Idaho will also have a chance to decide whether or not they want ACA Medicaid expansion as well:

Reclaim Idaho meets signature goal, marches on

Covered California Analysis Shows Major Declines in New Enrollment Nationally and Identifies Policies That Could Lower Premiums in 2019

  • Enrollment in the federally facilitated marketplace has dropped 9 percent over the past two years, with a nearly 40 percent drop in new enrollment, while enrollment in state-based marketplaces remained steady during the same period.

Nothing new under the sun here; this is the core of what I do at ACASignups.net. In fact, this press release underplays the point slightly: The official enrollment tallies are down 10% on the federal exchange since 2016 and up 1.5%, although the discrepancy might be partly due to Kentucky shifting from state-based status to federal status in 2017.

I know I tend to pitch for folks to support my work here at ACA Signups fairly frequently, but today I want to pass the hat a bit for my friend Chris Savage of Eclectablog (and yes, there's even a healthcare angle here). From his post earlier today:

You may recall that earlier this year, I had a run-in with a bad dude named Diverticulitis that put me in the hospital for ten days. As it turns out, I need to have surgery next month to keep that scary situation from ever happening again. Because this is happening during the time when we normally hold our annual fundraising party, we are going to postpone the party until late August when I am back on my feet.

The upshot is that the Eclectablog bank account is nearly depleted and won’t be significantly refreshed until almost September. Therefore, this quarterly fundraiser is more important than most. We need to raise enough money to keep paying our fabulous contributors until the annual party.

There was a bit of confusion on Twitter this morning (shocker!) over a Modern Healthcare story which reported on a new physician payment policy from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) for Medicare enrollees.

At first it looked like CMS was planning on allowing doctors to "balance bill" Medicare patients. Balance billing is already a controversial issue with private insurance; it's the practice of a doctor/hospital charging the patient directly for the difference between what the doctor wants to be paid and what the insurance company agrees to pay them.

 

Former Acting CMS Administrator Andy Slavitt and Huffington Post healthcare reporter Jeff Young have each written up a fairly comprehensive list of the various types of ACA/healthcare sabotage which the Trump Administration and/or other Republicans in Congress or at the state level have attempted (or are in the process of attempting today).

Young posted an excellent roundup under a nice headline which says it all:

The GOP Has One Big Idea For Health Care Reform: Crappier Insurance

As I noted last week, the Republican-controlled Michigan state Senate rammed through a draconian work requirement bill for ACA Medicaid expansion enrollees in spite of the fact that it would serve no positive purpose and would only "save money" by kicking thousands of low-income Michiganders off their healthcare coverage while actually harming the economy.

I further noted that while I was pretty sure the bill would easily pass the state Senate (where the GOP holds a supermajority) and will likely pass the GOP-controlled state House as well, there is a decent chance that it could be vetoed by GOP Gov. Rick Snyder. Snyder is guilty of a long list of sins during his time as Governor, including being indirectly responsible for the water supply for the entire city of Flint being poisoned a few years back. At the same time, oddly, once in a blue moon he'll actually do something decent and good, and the one he deserves the most praise for on this front is pushing to get Medicaid expansion through in the first place.

So, about a week ago I tweeted this out:

Last December Congressional Republicans, having mostly failed in their quest to take healthcare coverage away from 24 million Americans, decided to settle for half a loaf and simply kill off the ACA's individual mandate by itself.

It's important to keep in mind that they knew damned well that killing the mandate penalty without replacing it with some other type of "negative inducement" to encourage people to enroll in a fully ACA-compliant policy was a really, really bad idea. Proof? Both the GOP House and Senate versions of their ACA "replacement" bill included an alternative to the mandate penalty:

The American Health Care Act ("AHCA"):

Under the AHCA, the individual mandate is wiped out...except it's replaced with a 30% premium surcharge for people who don't maintain continuous coverage for more than 2 months.

(sigh) OK, gather 'round children, and let me tell you the story of how Cost Sharing Reductions went from being a thorn in the side of the Obama Administration to becoming a massive tree branch jammed into the kidney of Congressional Republicans. The following is an updated version of a lengthy post of mine from about six months ago.

The Cost Sharing Reduction (CSR) payment controversy has only really been sucking up a huge amount of political and policy oxygen for the past year and a half, since Donald Trump took office, but actually started long before then. Why? Because the whole reason the CSR payments were discontinued in the first place is a federal lawsuit filed by John Boehner on behalf of the House Republican Caucus back in 2014.

(sigh) Dammit, sure enough, as I expected, the full Michigan state Senate has gone ahead and passed the state Senator Mike Shirkey's "God's Safety Net" bill which would impose 29-hour-plus work requirements on 680,000 low-income Medicaid enrollees even though the vast majority of them already work, go to school, are medically fragile, take care of other medical fragile family members, elderly relatives or children and so forth. It was, as you'd expect, a party-line vote:

Able-bodied Medicaid recipients in Michigan may soon have to choose between finding a job or losing health insurance.

...Democrats condemned the proposal as harmful to thousands of Medicaid recipients who would not meet the several exemptions spelled out in SB 897 and said such a move is also illegal. Majority Republicans brushed aside those objections, and the bill passed 26-11.

The bill now heads to the House.

I've repeatedly written about how Donald Trump is still deperately trying to sabotage the ACA by any means necessary. Last year it was all about a combination of regulatory and legislative attacks, but aside from repealing the ACA's individual mandate (which was, admittedly, a pretty ugly blow), the GOP-held Congress was unsuccessful at tearing it down legislatively.

Therefore, for 2018, Trump has decided to double down on the regulatory side...and one of the main ways he hopes to achieve this is by opening up the floodgates on so-called "Short-Term, Limited Duration" policies, which aren't subject to most ACA requirements and therefore are a) free to siphon off healthy ACA-compliant enrollees into b) substandard healthcare plans which can leave thousands of people in dire straits.

Jonathan Cohn of the Huffington Post has the skinny:

Two more Democratic senators are introducing a bill that would create a version of Medicare for some working-age Americans, offering yet another sign that government-run insurance will figure prominently into the Democratic Party’s health care agenda going forward.

Over at the Kaiser Family Foundation, Karen Pollitz and Gary Claxton have published a handy explainer which goes over the basics of the various types of NON-ACA individual market policies...specifically, the "Short Term" and "Association" plans which Donald Trump is attempting to flood the market with by essentially removing any restrictions or regulations on them, but also the "Idaho Style" plans which were rejected by HHS for being flat-out illegal as well as the "Farm Bureau" junk plans which Iowa recently decided to open the floodgates on (Tennessee already had a similar setup, and sure enough, it has proven pretty devastating to Tennessee's ACA market since 2014 as a result). The whole thing is worth a read, but in the early part of their explainer, however, they also happened to neatly lend support to my estimates from last week regarding the unsubsidized market:

 

(sigh) This is so predictable...via Jonathan Oosting of the Detroit News:

...Maitre, 62, spends dozens of hours each week babysitting her grandchildren and providing their working parents with free child care. But none of that time or her community service would count as work under an advancing plan that would require Medicaid recipients to spend 29 hours a week at a job or risk losing their health care coverage.

...The Republican-led Senate Competitiveness Committee approved the legislation a short time later in a 4-1 vote. The lone committee Democrat voted against the plan to reform the government health care program for lower-income residents, which has grown significantly in recent years after the state expanded eligibility under former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.

It now moves on to the full state Senate, as I expected.

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