In This Edition:
From Kaiser Health News:
Ten-year-old Josh Hardy died last month. His struggle to survive helped to spur laws to get unapproved drugs to the terminally ill. (Liz Szabo, 10/3)
The federal government is supporting efforts to test whether telemedicine strategies can be used to treat Appalachia’s painkiller addiction crisis. (Shefali Luthra, 10/3)
Two prescription medications have been found to be successful in helping many patients with alcohol cravings. Yet they are rarely used and many patients don’t know they exist. (Emma Yasinski, 10/3)
Twenty dying people, at peace with their mortality, shared their views on life, love and death with a Los Angeles artist for an exhibit at the Museum of Tolerance. (Anna Gorman, 10/3)
Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Doublespeak'" by Pat Bagley, The Salt Lake Tribune.
Here's today's health policy haiku:
A $600 EXPIRATION DATE
The need to replace
Adds to cost concerns.
If you have a health policy haiku to share, please Contact Us and let us know if you want us to include your name. Keep in mind that we give extra points if you link back to a KHN original story.
Summaries Of The News:
Even supporters say it has structural and technical problems. And both presidential candidates have made clear they would seek to change at least some aspects of the law. In other news, the administration gives up the fight over bare-bones plans, and Minnesota's insurance regulator sounds the alarm on the state's marketplace.
The New York Times: Ailing Obama Health Care Act May Have To Change To Survive
The fierce struggle to enact and carry out the Affordable Care Act was supposed to put an end to 75 years of fighting for a health care system to insure all Americans. Instead, the law’s troubles could make it just a way station on the road to another, more stable health care system, the shape of which could be determined on Election Day. Seeing a lack of competition in many of the health law’s online insurance marketplaces, Hillary Clinton, President Obama and much of the Democratic Party are calling for more government, not less. (Pear, 10/2)
The Wall Street Journal: Obama Administration Ends Drive To Ban Bare-Bones Health Plans
The Obama administration has ended a bid to ban the sale of bare-bones health plans after losing a court fight on the issue this summer. Government lawyers told a federal court earlier this month they would accept its decision that they had overstepped by seeking to effectively end so-called fixed indemnity plans, which are low-cost but pay out only set cash amounts for medical events such as a hospital visit or prescription purchase. (Radnofsky, 9/30)
The Associated Press: Minnesota Regulator: Insurance Market In Dire Situation
Minnesota's individual health care market is in "an emergency situation," the state's top industry regulator said Friday, noting that it took the approval of massive rate increases to persuade all its remaining insurance companies not to pull out for next year. (Potter, 9/30)
Morning Consult: Minn. Insurance Commissioner Announces Major Premium Hikes, Calls For Exchange Reforms
Minnesota’s commerce commissioner called for reforms to strengthen the federal marketplace Friday after announcing monthly premium increases of at least 50 percent for 2017. “While federal tax credits will help make monthly premiums more affordable for many Minnesotans, these rising insurance rates are both unsustainable and unfair,” Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman said in a statement. “Middle-class Minnesotans in particular are being crushed by the heavy burden of these costs. ..." The state improved monthly premium increases between 50 percent and 67 percent for the seven insurers offering plans on the state’s exchange, MNsure, in 2017. Approximately 250,000 in the state purchase insurance through the state’s marketplace, about 5 percent of the state’s population. (McIntire, 9/30)
The Pioneer Press: ‘Emergency’ For Minnesota As Huge Insurance Premium Hikes Confirmed
Minnesota’s individual insurance market is in danger of collapse, Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman said Friday as he announced massive premium increases for 2017 plans. (Montgomery, 9/30)
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Common Ground Insurance Co-Op Secures Financing
Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative said Friday it has received a capital infusion that will enable it to remain in business and continue to sell health plans next year. The cooperative said that under terms of its agreement, it could not disclose the source or amount of the financing it received. (Boulton, 9/30)
Meanwhile, NPR takes a look back at a different federal health law —
NPR: Hill-Burton Act: A Health Care Milestone Worth Remembering
People might be forgiven for thinking that the Affordable Care Act is the federal government's boldest intrusion into the private business of health care. But few know about a 70-year-old law that is responsible for the construction of much of our health system's infrastructure. The law's latest anniversary came and went without much notice in August. (Schumann, 10/2)
A Center for Public Integrity investigation finds strong ties between some state insurance commissioners and the industry they regulate. Other outlets report on insurance industry news, including updates on the proposed merger between Anthem and Cigna, a New Jersey case about Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield, high-deductible plans and military coverage for transgender services.
Center for Public Integrity/The Washington Post: Drinks, Junkets And Jobs: How The Insurance Industry Courts State Commissioners
When the Arkansas insurance commissioner weighed the merits of a hospital’s billing complaint against United Healthcare, her interactions with one of the nation’s largest health insurers extended far beyond her department’s hearing room. During months of deliberations, Commissioner Julie Benafield Bowman met repeatedly with United Healthcare lawyers and lobbyists over lunch and drinks at venues such as the Country Club of Little Rock. ... Nearly two years later, ... she was working for United Healthcare, having joined at least three of her predecessors representing insurers in Arkansas. ... An investigation by the Center for Public Integrity found that half of the 109 state insurance commissioners who have left their posts in the past decade have gone on to work for the industry they used to regulate. (Mishak, 10/2)
Reuters: Anthem Judge Considering Splitting Merger Trial Into Two Sections
The judge who will rule on whether the government may stop health insurer Anthem from buying competitor Cigna said Friday that she was considering splitting the trial into phases. Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said that she was mulling hearing separately about the effect of the merger on the national market in one phase and on local markets in a second phase with a potential decision after the first set of arguments. (Bartz, 9/30)
Modern Healthcare: N.J. Supreme Court Declines To Hear Horizon Tiered Health Plan Challenge
The Supreme Court of New Jersey declined to review a case this week that alleges state regulators shouldn't have allowed Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield to relegate hospitals to a tiered network. The decision by the higher court deals a blow to the three hospitals part of the suit. (Castellucci, 9/30)
The Houston Chronicle: A Shift In Coverage Has Even The Insured Skipping Medical Care
This year, for the first time, a majority threshold was crossed as 51 percent of American workers have a deductible of at least $1,000. That compares with just 10 percent a decade ago, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation's 2016 annual health benefits survey released in September. Not only has the number of plans with deductibles grown, so, too, has the amount patients must come up with before coverage kicks in. Today, the average deductible in individual plans that have one is $1,478. In 2006, according to Kaiser, it was $584. (Deam, 10/1)
The Associated Press: Hope, Relief For Transgender Military Families In New Policy
Like many transgender teens, Jenn Brewer faced bullying when she came out. Some classmates called her "tranny," and a few teachers refused to address the 13-year-old by anything other than her male birth name, she said. But she and her family found that the biggest difficulty came from her father's employer: the U.S. military. Jenn's father is an Army staff sergeant at Virginia's Fort Belvoir, and his military health insurance refused to cover private counseling to support the changes his daughter was embracing. (Finley, 10/2)