In This Edition:
From Kaiser Health News:
The woman set to run the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services told senators last week that maternity coverage should be optional in individual and small group plans. But other services could also be left on the cutting room floor. (Michelle Andrews, 2/21)
Aetna will be the third major insurer to remove prior authorization requirements for patients who seek medication-assisted treatments such as Suboxone. (Shefali Luthra, 2/21)
State data show a rise of nearly 40 percent in fall-related visits from 2010 to 2015, a period in which the elderly population grew about 21 percent. (Anna Gorman, 2/21)
Some terminal patients, typically high-dose opioid users, who choose to end their lives have taken many hours, even days, to die. (JoNel Aleccia, 2/21)
Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Skunk Test?'" by Steve Kelley.
Here's today's health policy haiku:
IN CALIF. AND THE U.S., AN AGING ISSUE THAT REQUIRES PREVENTION
Who’s in the ER?
Sometimes it’s seniors who fell.
We have to ask why.
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:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he does not expect any cooperation from Democrats as Congress works toward dismantling and replacing the health law. Meanwhile, The Associated Press breaks down what's in the Republicans' plans, and the intra-party divide on the right continues to grow.
The Associated Press: McConnell Intends To Replace 'Obamacare' Without Democrats
Republicans will repeal and replace the health care law and overhaul the tax code without Democratic help or votes, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Friday. "It's clear that in the early months it's going to be a Republicans-only exercise," the Kentucky senator said at a news conference before lawmakers left for a weeklong President's Day recess. "We don't expect any Democratic cooperation on the replacement of Obamacare, we don't expect any Democratic cooperation on tax reform." (Werner, 2/17)
The Associated Press: GOP Health Plan: Lower Costs, Better Care, Or Road To Ruin?
Top House Republicans say their outline for replacing President Barack Obama's health care law is a pathway to greater flexibility and lower costs for consumers. Democrats see a road to ruin for millions who'd face lost coverage and higher medical expenses, particularly the poor. The plan "ensures more choices, lower costs and greater control over your health care," according to talking points GOP leaders handed lawmakers heading home to face constituents during this week's recess. (Fram, 2/20)
Modern Healthcare: GOP Anxiety Rises As Conservatives And Moderates Split On ACA Repeal
Divisions sharpened last week between hard-right and more pragmatic Republicans over both policy and strategy for repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. Those differences—along with the apparently slow progress in drafting actual legislation that could be scored by the Congressional Budget Office on cost and coverage impact—underscore the tough struggle Republicans face in dismantling Obamacare and establishing an alternative system. (Meyer, 2/18)
Bloomberg: Conservatives Object To Obamacare Replacement's Tax Credits
Some conservative House Republicans are objecting to a major part of the Obamacare replacement outline presented to them by party leaders, underscoring the party’s continuing inability to agree on an alternative health plan. The proposal would allow Americans who lack insurance to buy coverage with refundable tax credits they can receive before the end of a tax year. House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady said he and other leaders presented the idea during Thursday’s private conference of the House GOP. (Kapur and House, 2/17)
CQ Roll Call: Key Senator Sees Promise In House GOP Health Care Proposal
A key Republican senator on Friday said the House GOP's health care proposal was written with input from the Senate, and the House would ultimately pass a bill the upper chamber can accept. Meanwhile, Democrats are spurring their allies to rally in support of President Barack Obama's 2010 health care law, which Republicans want to replace. House Republicans on Thursday began their recess with a committee document to help them respond to constituents’ questions about plans to repeal and replace the 2010 law. It outlines proposals for age-based tax credits, an expansion of health savings accounts and transitioning out the Medicaid expansion. (Siddons, 2/17)
CQ HealthBeat: GOP Leaps On Congressional Review Act To Kill Obama Rules
A law that's been successfully used only once until now is the conduit for a whole lot of action on Capitol Hill. Republicans in Congress are expected to send a stream of bills — most of which require a single sentence — to President Donald Trump’s desk, using a process to repeal agency rules known as the Congressional Review Act (PL 104-121). The act was tucked into 1996 legislation tied to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s famous “Contract With America.” So far, Trump has signed two of the rule repeals into law. (Mejdrich, 2/21)
Meanwhile, insurers weigh in on Republicans' replace plans and more —
The Wall Street Journal: Insurers Voice Concern Over House GOP’s Outline For Health Law Repeal
The new House Republican plan, whose backers include House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), is far from a complete bill, and the limited summary highlighted many GOP divisions over the health overhaul’s future. President Donald Trump has promised to deliver an initial ACA replacement plan next month. Still, insures saw the House document as a key signal and parsed it closely. Many were concerned that they found no answers to some of their most important questions—and some of what they did find was alarming. For instance, insurers said, the outline promised to immediately end enforcement of the ACA’s coverage mandate but appeared to offer no replacement mechanism that would prod healthy consumers to purchase plans. (Wilde Mathews, 2/17)
NPR: "High-Risk Insurance Pools" Urged By Obamacare Repealers, But At What Cost?
Some Republicans looking to scrap the Affordable Care Act say monthly health insurance premiums need to be lower for the individuals who have to buy insurance on their own. One way to do that, GOP leaders say, would be to return to the use of what are called high-risk insurance pools. (Zdechlik, 2/18)
Previous KHN coverage: Sounds Like A Good Idea? High-Risk Pools
Kaiser Health News: Health Law’s 10 Essential Benefits: A Look At What’s At Risk In GOP Overhaul
As Republicans look at ways to replace or repair the health law, many suggest shrinking the list of services insurers are required to offer in individual and small group plans would reduce costs and increase flexibility. That option came to the forefront last week when Seema Verma, who is slated to run the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in the Trump administration, noted at her confirmation hearing that coverage for maternity services should be optional in those health plans. Maternity coverage is a popular target and one often mentioned by health law critics, but other items also could be watered down or eliminated. (Andrews, 2/21)
Constituents are gearing up to flood town halls with questions about Republicans' plans on health care.
The New York Times: Congress Goes Home, And Constituents Fired Up Over Health Care Are Waiting
As Republican lawmakers prepare to leave Washington for a weeklong congressional recess, liberal groups and Democratic Party organizers are hoping to make their homecoming as noisy and uncomfortable as possible. But national organizers concede they are playing catch-up to a “dam-bursting level” of grass-roots activism that has bubbled up from street protests and the small groups that have swelled into crowds outside local congressional offices. (Zernike and Burns, 2/17)
The Wall Street Journal: Lawmaker Answers To Hometown Critics At Town Halls
Rep. Tom Reed (R., N.Y.) easily won re-election last year after being one of the first congressional Republicans to endorse President Donald Trump. On Saturday, he drew huge, often angry crowds in this small-town area as he tried to sell a Republican agenda that the president’s victory made possible. At a veterans hall and senior citizens center along New York’s Southern Tier region, Mr. Reed made his pitch for repealing the Affordable Care Act and explained why he had cast a committee vote against allowing members of the panel to review Mr. Trump’s tax returns. (Hughes, 2/18)
NPR: New York Republican Rep. Tom Reed Faces Angry Crowds, Deep In Trump Country
New York GOP Rep. Tom Reed probably knew what kind of day he was in for when he arrived at the Ashville senior center for his first town hall on Saturday. The crowd was so large the gathering had been moved outside to a slushy parking lot. "First and foremost, we are going to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare," Reed said at the outset, using a loudspeaker propped up on a ladder to try to reach the sprawling crowd. The response was loud and sustained boos. (Taylor, 2/19)