Charles Gaba's blog

Welp. That didn't take long...just a week ago, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont announced that he and the state legislative leaders had put together a robust package of impressive healthcare reform bills, including:

  • expanding subsidies to at least some of those eanring more than 400% of the Federal Poverty Level (like California is in the process of doing)
  • expanding Medicaid up to 170% FPL (it used to be 201% FPL but was dropped down to 155% a couple of years ago)
  • reinstating the ACA's individual mandate penalty (similar to what Massachusetts, New Jersey and DC have done and what California is in the process of doing)
  • implementing a state-level reinsurance program (as over a half-dozen states, including several GOP-controlled ones, have done)

Holy Smokes! Right on top of my post earlier today about nearly twenty healthcare/ACA bills being pushed through the California legislature, here's a similar story about another batch of ACA improvement/protection bills being pushed through the New Jersey state assembly! via Lilo Stainton of NJ Spotlight:

Democratic lawmakers introduced a dozen bills late last week to create the infrastructure, funding, and regulatory structure for a state-based system that would enable New Jersey officials to create, market, and sell health insurance policies to low-income individuals and small businesses with fewer than 50 employees.

Yesterday I noted that both houses of the California state legislature (Assembly and Senate) voted to expand Medi-Cal (the state's Medicaid program) to anywhere between 147,000 - 175,000 undocumented immigrants (young adults age 19 - 25 and seniors over 65), entirely funded using state dollars.

It turns out that this was only part of a marathon voting session yesterday over the past few weeks. Either the state Senate, Assembly or both have also voted to pass three a bunch of other healthcare-related bills (I've included simple descriptions of each):

BREAKING: California Assembly passes our #AB1246(@Limon) to align consumer protections for all Californians, including those in large group coverage. #Care4AllCA

Back in 2016, California passed an important bill which allowed undocumented children to enroll in the state's Medicaid program (called Medi-Cal). The costs are borne entirely by the state, since federal law currently doesn't allow federal taxpayer dollars to be used to pay for Medicaid...although, I should note, this isn't entirely true:

Federal law generally bars illegal immigrants from being covered by Medicaid. But a little-known part of the state-federal health insurance program for the poor has long paid about $2 billion a year for emergency treatment for a group of patients who, according to hospitals, mostly comprise illegal immigrants.

The lion’s share goes to reimburse hospitals for delivering babies for women who show up in their emergency rooms, according to interviews with hospital officials and studies.

(update: the video of the town hall has been removed from YouTube for whatever reason, but I have the transcript below anyway)

Last night on the Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, Democratic U.S. Senator and Presidential candidate Kamala Harris took her fourth (or fifth) shot at explaining exactly where she stands on Medicare for All and the elimination of private primary heatlh insurance.

As I've noted (mostly on Twitter...I just checked and it looks like I haven't written much about it on the site aside from a quick mention here), Harris has struggled to explain her position in several town hall appearances; she'll boldly stated that she supports "Medicare for All", but then stumbles when it comes to the "elimination of private insurance" issue.

Back in March, I noted that Democratic Minnesota Governor Tim Walz had put forth a pretty ambitious budget proposal, which included two pretty eyebrow-raising ACA-related funding proposals:

The Governor will take immediate action by creating a subsidy program to reduce by 20 percent the monthly premiums for Minnesotans who receive their insurance through MNSure. This subsidy will be applied directly against a consumer’s premiums. This proposal provides relief to Minnesotans with incomes over 400 percent of the federal poverty level do not qualify for the federal premium tax credit which helps lower the costs of health insurance premiums. Up to 80,000 people could participate in the program, reducing the out-of-pocket costs of their health insurance premiums.

via Covered California:

Covered California Announces Grants to Community-Based Organizations Across California in Preparation for 2020 and Beyond

  • Community-based organizations and clinics will receive a total of $6.3 million in grant funding to help people enroll in quality health care coverage.
  • The 105 organizations reflect California’s diversity and will target populations that are hard to reach, uninsured and eligible for financial help through Covered California.
  • Approximately 89 percent of Californians live within a 15-minute drive of these community-based organizations.

Covered California announced Friday that it intends to partner with 105 community-based organizations to educate consumers about their health care options, offer in-person enrollment and renewal assistance and provide ongoing support on how to get the best value from their health plan. The Navigator grants announced are part of Covered California’s ongoing commitment to support robust marketing and outreach, including working with trusted organizations throughout the state to help hard-to-reach people understand this new era of health care.

Virginia is traditionally the first state to release their preliminary individual (& small group) market healthcare policy rate changes, but this year the state insurance regulatory body delayed the initial deadline by a couple of weeks. As a result, three other states (Maryland, Vermont and Oregon) beat Virginia to the punch this year.

The extended VA deadline passed last week, however, and so I'm now able to dig up the preliminary 2020 rate filings for the ACA market. It's important to remember as always that these are preliminary requests only; some of them are bound to change at least once between now and late September, when the final rate changes are locked in and the contracts are signed for the 2020 calendar year (and Open Enrollment Period).

via the Washington HealthPlanFinder (aka the Washington Health Benefit Exchange):

The Washington Health Benefit Exchange today released its Spring Health Coverage Enrollment Report detailing the more than 1.6 million customers – one in four Washingtonians – who used Washington Healthplanfinder to access their 2019 health insurance coverage.

Nearly 200,000 customers used the state’s online marketplace to purchase a Qualified Health Plan (QHP) for coverage this year, adding to the more than 1.4 million residents who connected with free or low-cost health insurance through Washington Apple Health. In several rural counties (Adams, Grant, Okanogan, Pacific and Yakima), nearly half of the population relied on Washington Healthplanfinder to enroll in a 2019 health insurance plan.

Last November, I made a huge error in judgement when reporting on the tragic, avoidable death of a young diabetic man in Minnesota:

When I first watched the video, I got hung up on a different aspect of Alec Smith's story...the question of whether or not he would have qualified for tax credits via an ACA exchange policy based on his income. I reached out to Alec Smith's mother, Nicole Smith-Holt, to clarify a few things from her story, but hadn't heard back yet as of yesterday morning...and made a poor decision to post the article yesterday anyway, in which I speculated, based on the limited information in the video, that Alec may have qualified for some level of assistance after all without realizing it.

The whole post was, quite simply, wrong. It was wrong for several reasons, and I'm sorry for each of them.

I laid out several of the obvious ways in which my original post was out of line, thoughtless and showed a lack of compassion. I apologized personally to Ms. Smith-Holt, she accepted, and we had a lengthy online discussion about her son's story and what led to his death:

NOTE: Julia A. Pulver, RN, BSN, CCM has been an registered nurse for over 12 years who has spent her career working with the most at risk populations in Southeast Michigan, and is also a personal friend of mine.

She posted this essay on Medium in response to last Friday's shockingly sudden vote to completely overhaul Michigan's auto insurance laws by the state legislature, with the full backing of Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

I'm cross-posting the essay here with her permission in hopes of giving it greater exposure. I didn't know half the stuff on this list myself.

Know What You Have Before You Give It Away

UPDATED with my personal initial thoughts (see below):

A few weeks ago I noted that Michigan Republicans were pushing hard for new Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer to basically eliminate Michigan's unique unlimited catastrophic care requirement for no-fault auto insurance, which is the main reason our state has the highest auto insurance premiums in the country.

Whitmer and legislative Democrats don't want people to be stuck with massive auto injury medical claims, of course, and they also wanted a guarantee of significant rate reductions as well as the elimination of "redlining" (basing rates on zip codes) and other discriminatory auto insurance pricing practices, like basing premiums on credit ratings, gender and the like.

Last October, shortly before the midterm election, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ned Lamont of Connecticut announced that if elected, he'd push hard for a robust reinsurance program along the lines of other states which have successfully implemented reinsurance 1332 waivers under the ACA:

HARTFORD, CT — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont has much lower expectations for what he’s going to be able to do to improve the health of Connecticut residents than one might expect from a Democratic candidate this year.

Sounds like Lamont would not push for CT to reinstate the ACA individual mandate penalty:

...Does he believe everyone in Connecticut has to purchase health insurance now that it’s not mandated by the federal government?

For a good six months or so from the fall 2017 to spring 2018, retiring Republican Senator Lamar Alexander and Democratic Senator Patty Murray tried to hash out a deal which would have, had it actually been passed and signed into law, resolved some (not all) of the ACA's stabilization issues...although at a pretty ugly cost:

  • Reinsurance: GOOD!
  • Guaranteed Ad/Outreach Funding: Good! (but only necessary due to Trump cutting funding in first place)
  • Short-Term Plan Notifications: Good! (but only necessary because of #ShortAssPlan EO in first place)
  • BHP Funding: Mostly Good w/a possible Meh.
  • Waiver Flexibility: Mostly Good.
  • Copper Plans: Meh.
  • CSR Funding (with Silver Loading allowed): (NET NEGATIVE)
  • CSR Funding (with Silver Loading prohibited): (it's complicated)
  • Short-Term Plan FEDERAL OVERRIDE: DEAL-BREAKER
  • Abortion Prohibition: DEAL-BREAKER
  • ShortAssPlan Expansion: DEAL-BREAKER (via separate bill)

This Just In via mailing list...

The Fifth Circuit just officially calendared the argument for the afternoon of July 9th. Here’s the docket entry:

CASE CALENDARED for oral argument on Tuesday, 07/09/2019 in New Orleans in the West Courtroom -- PM session. In accordance with our policy, lead counsel only will receive via email at a later date a copy of the court's docket and an acknowledgment form. All other counsel of record should monitor the court's website for the posting of the oral argument calendars.. [19-10011] (SME) [Entered: 05/23/2019 11:08 AM]

While I have you, I’m attaching the excellent reply briefs filed yesterday by the growing coalition of ACA defender states led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as well as the brief from the U.S. House of Representatives. Both completely take apart every single one of the absurd legal arguments put forward by the Trump-Barr DOJ and Texas et al.

Once more for those in the back:

One More Time: If the entire ACA were to be repealed:

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