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In This Edition:
From Kaiser Health News:
As part of their efforts to get rid of the health law, Republicans have pledged to overturn all its taxes. But that might hamper their efforts to find a replacement. (Julie Rovner, 12/23)
The Obama administration has said no to states taking more control over Medicaid, but the incoming Congress and White House may be more inclined to say yes. (Eric Whitney, Montana Public Radio, 12/23)
Mumps is back and is having its worst year in a decade, fueled in part by its spread on college campuses. (Rebecca Smith, Side Effects Public Media, 12/23)
Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Medi-Dare'" by Darrin Bell.
Here's today's health policy haiku:
HOLIDAY WISHES TO OUR READERS
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Summaries Of The News:
The House Democratic leader wants lawmakers to "continue the drumbeat" back in their districts about how much the health law benefits their constituents. Meanwhile, Donald Trump doesn't need Congress to be able to end the subsidies paid to insurers under the health law -- and it could throw the market into chaos if he chooses to take that route.
The Associated Press: Pelosi Rallies House Democrats To Oppose Health Law Repeal
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi has issued a call to action to her rank and file to fight Republican efforts to scrap the health care law by highlighting the risks of repeal for millions of Americans. In a letter to her Democratic colleagues late Wednesday, Pelosi said that with the new GOP-controlled Congress and Donald Trump's administration, "House Democrats stand ready to fight vigorously for America's hard-working families." She urged lawmakers to hold media events in early January to tell voters about Republican plans to repeal the law, called the Affordable Care Act, at the beginning of the year. (Jalonick, 12/22)
CQ Roll Call: House Democrats Plan Local Events To Counter Obamacare Repeal
House Democrats are planning to spend January highlighting the dangers of making changes to the health care system as Republicans plan to repeal Obamacare, according to a letter to lawmakers by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Pelosi is asking members to plan events on Jan. 7 back in their home districts featuring constituents who would be affected by a repeal of the 2010 health care overhaul (PL 111-148, PL 111-152) and potential changes to Medicare. Similarly, on Jan. 14. House Democrats will join with senators and governors for a “national day of action,” the letter said. “At these events the most effective voices are those of the constituents whose lives will be affected by attacks on the ACA and Medicare,” Pelosi said in the letter, using the acronym for the health care law. "Advocates and health care groups stand ready to participate and assist us." (Siddons, 12/22)
Morning Consult: Pelosi Preps Democrats For Obamacare, Medicare Fights
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi attempted to rally her caucus this week by urging members to plan press events focused on the Affordable Care Act. Pelosi sent a letter Wednesday asking House Democratic lawmakers to plan events for early January that showcase support for the Affordable Care Act and Medicare. Pelosi said Jan. 7 should include events that “highlight the risks of repeal of the ACA and of ending the Medicare guarantee.” Constituents who would be directly affected by changes to either program are “the most effective voices” at such events, she said. (McIntire, 12/22)
The Washington Post: Trump Could Quickly Doom ACA Cost-Sharing Subsidies For Millions Of Americans
Even without Congress repealing the Affordable Care Act, the Trump administration could undermine the law by unilaterally ending billions of dollars the government pays insurers to subsidize the health coverage of nearly 6 million Americans. Given that insurers would still be required to provide consumers that financial help, such a move could create upheaval in the ACA’s marketplaces — prompting health plans to raise their prices or drop out, according to health-policy experts in both major political parties. (Goldstein, 12/22)
Morning Consult: GOP Report Details Extensive Talks Around Appropriation To Pay Insurers
House Republicans on Thursday released what they say is evidence showing the Obama administration broke the law when it funded an Affordable Care Act program aimed at helping lower-income people pay for insurance coverage. The Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce committees released an addendum to a July report that argued the 2010 law did not provide funding for the program known as “cost-sharing reductions” or CSR. The 31-page addition includes information the committees have gathered from the administration since July, including descriptions of conversations between officials debating whether to use a permanent appropriation for tax credits and refunds for program. (McIntire, 12/22)
In other health law news —
Kaiser Health News: If Republicans Repeal Health Law, How Will They Pay For Replacement?
Leading Republicans have vowed that even if they repeal most of the Affordable Care Act early in 2017, a replacement will not hurt those currently receiving benefits. Republicans will seek to ensure that “no one is worse off,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., in an interview with a Wisconsin newspaper earlier this month. “The purpose here is to bring relief to people who are suffering from Obamacare so that they can get something better.” But that may be difficult for one big reason — Republicans have also pledged to repeal the taxes that Democrats used to pay for their health law. (Rovner, 12/23)
Bloomberg: GOP Wants Trump To Trim Obamacare Benefits, Say Congress Aides
Facing a years-long wait before they can fully implement a planned repeal of Obamacare, Republicans lawmakers are exploring how the Trump administration can quickly trim required health insurance benefits under the law and lower the cost of health plans, said key GOP congressional aides. Republicans plan to use a fast-track procedure to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but with a built-in delay to postpone full repeal for years while they navigate the complexities of passing a replacement. By going after the benefit rules now, however, they can take advantage of the broad authority given to the executive branch when the law passed to make faster changes, said the aides, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the process is ongoing. (Edney, Kapur and Tracer, 12/23)
The Fiscal Times: Republicans Are Having Second Thoughts About Scrapping Obamacare Taxes
With only weeks to go before the GOP-controlled Congress begins work on legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Republican lawmakers and staff are struggling to address potentially catastrophic effects of killing off the program without a suitable replacement in hand. (Pianin, 12/22)
And for news out of the states —
California Healthline: Thousands Of Covered California Enrollees Could Lose Subsidies In January
An error by Covered California has left about 24,000 policy holders at risk of losing their federal tax credits in January if they don’t give the state health insurance exchange permission to verify their income. Covered California is engaged in a last-minute scramble to reach those individuals and families before the end of the month, spokeswoman Lizelda Lopez said. For policy holders who don’t give the agency their consent by Dec. 31, federal tax credits will not be applied to their January premiums. That means they may need to pay the full, unsubsidized amount of those premiums until they rectify the situation, she said. (Bazar, 12/23)
Nashville Tennessean: Pastors Ask Trump, Congress To Stop Obamacare Roll Back
A group of Christian leaders, including several pastors from Tennessee, are opposing the repeal of the Affordable Care Act if there is not a sufficient replacement ready to go. The Southern Christian Coalition announced Thursday in a media call that they plan to send a letter to members of Tennessee's congressional delegation and President-elect Donald Trump, asking them to stop efforts to roll back Obamacare. "Repealing the ACA without a replacement plan would not bring us closer to our Christian values, but would instead endanger the health and life of millions of American people ... Politics should not come before the needs of the truly vulnerable in our nation," the letter reads. (Meyer, 12/22)
The Associated Press: New Mexico Health Exchange Wrote Letter In Governor's Name
A letter praising President Barack Obama's health care law circulated widely in recent days and was purported to be sent by New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez. But the Republican governor did not write the letter or know about it. The head of New Mexico's health care exchange office said Thursday her office wrote the letter without Martinez's knowledge or approval. (Lee, 12/22)
The Minneapolis Star Tribune: 100,000 People In Minnesota Can Still Enroll In January Health Coverage
About 100,000 people with individual health insurance policies can still sign up for coverage that starts in January, even though the general enrollment deadline came earlier this month. On Wednesday, the state's MNsure health insurance exchange started prominently publicizing the "special enrollment" option with e-mails to insurance agents and notices on its website. (Snowbeck, 12/22)
The Cleveland Plain Dealer: Obamacare Enrollment Could Be Up, Even As The Law Faces An End Under Trump
Obamacare enrollment may be up for 2017 compared with 2016, both nationally and in Ohio, despite uncertainty over the insurance program's future under President-elect Donald Trump, new figures show. (Koff, 12/21)
USA Today reports on the impact rural hospitals have already experienced in states that did not expand Medicaid, and on the expected challenges facilities will face nationwide with future health care changes. The Connecticut Mirror looks at how those anticipated change could also affect the uninsured.
USA Today: State Alternatives To Obamacare, Expanded Medicaid To Get Tested
At least 80 hospitals have closed nationally since 2010, according to the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program. In that time, six hospitals have closed in Georgia and about 10 more are in jeopardy of closure, says Jimmy Lewis, CEO of the rural hospital group Hometown Health. Republican control of the White House and Congress next year opens the door to new approaches to health care financing that could turn states into the "laboratories of democracy" the late liberal Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote they should be in 1932. (O'Donnell, 12/22)
The Connecticut Mirror: Hospitals Worry Medicaid, Obamacare Changes Could Bring Pain
With the potential for major changes in federal health care policy looming, hospital leaders are watching closely, worried especially that cuts to Medicaid could bring a big financial hit and that a repeal of Obamacare could raise the number of uninsured Connecticut residents. (Levin Becker, 12/23)