Federal officials say tax credits will blunt the impact of price increases in 2016 for most consumers buying the second-lowest silver health plan in 37 states. (Mary Agnes Carey and Jordan Rau, 10/27)
Enrollment for healthcare.gov plans for 2016 begins Sunday and consumers should carefully check their options to see what their costs will be, how much of a subsidy they qualify for and whether their doctors and hospitals are in the plan’s network. (Michelle Andrews, 10/27)
Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Give Up The Ghost'" by Joel Pett.
Here's today's health policy haiku:
BY THE NUMBERS
Premiums are on the rise
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Reports indicate that the agreement, which will likely face opposition from the right and left, would be paid for with a combination of health care savings and smaller revenue-raisers. A House vote could be held as soon as Wednesday.
NPR: White House And GOP Congressional Leaders Reach Budget Deal
Just days before the election of a new speaker of the House, lame-duck Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, made good on one last promise — that he'd try to "clear the barn" for his successor. In one fell swoop, two thorny issues were crossed off the to-do list: raising the debt ceiling by next Tuesday, and coming up with a budget agreement. ... The tentative agreement raises federal spending by $80 billion over the next two years, evenly splitting that increase between defense and domestic programs. Some of that is paid for by cuts to Medicare and Social Security disability benefits. Negotiators also agreed to lift the debt ceiling until March 2017. (Chang, 10/27)
The New York Times: Budget Deal Isn’t Boehner’s ‘Grand Bargain’ But Gets Job Done
It is no grand bargain, but it is a big deal. ... It would give a little breathing room for more spending on politically popular domestic programs like health care research, federal law enforcement and the Coast Guard, while defusing tension between Republican hawks itching for more military spending and budget hawks demanding strict adherence to statutory spending limits. And it would avert premium increases of as much as 50 percent for millions of older people on Medicare, a potent political force. (Hulse, 10/27)
Los Angeles Times: White House And Republican Leaders Reach Budget Deal
The deal is likely to face opposition from both right and left. The package also would raise the nation's borrowing limit and avert the risk of a credit default, which could come as early as Nov. 3. In addition, the deal is expected to block price increases on seniors who use Medicare Part B, halting forthcoming boosts in their premiums and deductibles. ... The GOP will score a victory with another provision that would do away with an Affordable Care Act requirement that larger companies automatically sign up workers for healthcare unless the workers specifically opt out. Businesses have fought the requirement. (Mascaro, 10/26)
The Wall Street Journal: White House, Congressional Leaders Reach Tentative Budget Deal
For it to pass the House, the pact will need to quickly win backing from most Democrats and at least a few dozen Republicans who have frequently balked at spending and debt-ceiling bills they say don’t do enough to shrink the budget deficit. At the same time, the White House and GOP leaders will have to make sure the provisions used to pay for the deal don’t alienate liberal Democrats, who could oppose changes to safety-net programs. (son, Timiraos and Hughes, 10/27)
Politico: Conservatives Already Trashing New Budget Deal
To pay for the increased spending, congressional negotiators dug into a combination of health care savings and smaller revenue-raisers. But even though the boost in spending would be paid for — a key part of the GOP leaders’ sales pitch — some conservative lawmakers signaled they still wouldn't support the plan. ... Those pay-fors include a repeal of a piece of Obamacare, according to congressional sources. It would repeal Obamacare’s requirement that large employers automatically enroll employees in their health plans. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that a different bill to repeal that provision would save the federal government $7.9 billion over a decade. (Kim, Everett and Haberkorn, 10/26)
USA Today: Congress, White House Near Deal To Avert Budget Crisis
The agreement would also set a two-year budget plan that would raise the strict government-wide spending limits — $520 billion for defense programs, $493 billion for non-defense — put in place by the 2011 "sequester." The official said it would add $50 billion to those totals in the first year and $30 billion the year after, divided equally between defense and non-defense spending. (Singer, Jansen and Kelly, 10/26)
Politico: John Boehner's Parting Gift To Paul Ryan
If Boehner can shepherd the deal through the House in his final hours in Congress, and the Senate sends it to the White House, Ryan would start out as speaker with more running room than Boehner ever enjoyed. ... Yet it's the kind of agreement that is born of old-fashioned, actual compromise between President Barack Obama and congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle, sources involved in the talks say. If the package makes it to the House floor — which it could by Wednesday — both sides say it has something for everyone to like. Senate action would come afterward. (Sherman and Bresnahan, 10/26)
The Washington Post: Congress, White House Reach Two-Year Budget Deal
The introduction sets up a vote as early as Wednesday on the bipartisan budget deal which would increase military and domestic spending and avert a potentially catastrophic default in exchange for long-term spending cuts. ... The timeline is tight for building support for the plan with the Treasury Department saying the debt ceiling will be hit by Nov. 3. ... The agreement includes about $80 billion in additional spending over two years, divided equally between defense and domestic programs. Those spending increases would be offset by savings from changes to the Social Security disability insurance fund and Medicare payments to doctors and other health care providers. (Snell, 10/27)
CNN: Budget Deal Divides Hill Republicans
The final details were ironed out late into the night Monday, including cuts to the Social Security disability program and to Medicare. But the deal was the product of weeks of negotiations led by Boehner, who is furiously trying to take the divisive fiscal issues off the plate for Ryan before his successor takes office. If the deal passes, Ryan could have a clear path to do his job without the fiscal brinksmanship that damaged Boehner's speakership. (Raju, Walsh and Barrett, 10/27)
Fox News: House GOP Leaders Unveil Two-Year Budget Deal With White House
A chief selling point for GOP leaders is that the alternative is chaos and a stand-alone debt limit increase that might be forced on Republicans. But conservatives in the conference who drove Boehner to resign were not ready to fall in line. "This is again just the umpteenth time that you have this big, big, huge deal that'll last for two years and we were told nothing about it, and in fact even today, were not given the details" said Rep. John Fleming, R-La. "And we're probably going to have to vote on it in less than 48 hours." (10/27)
CBS News: Congress, White House Strike Tentative Two-Year Budget Deal
The deal would lift spending levels, imposed by a 2011 fiscal deal, for both the Pentagon and domestic programs equally for the next two fiscal years. For the rest of the current fiscal year, the deal would boost spending by $50 billion and increase spending for the year after by $30 billion, sources said. (Shabad, 10/26)
In the background -
The Associated Press: AP-GfK Poll: Use Default, Shutdown Threats To Cut Spending
A divided public thinks it’s worth shutting the government or halting its ability to borrow to pay bills unless President Barack Obama consents to spending cuts, an Associated Press-GfK poll has found. ... Some specific goals of GOP lawmakers fare poorly when they are in the balance: There’s little taste for forcing a shutdown over halting federal payments to Planned Parenthood, repealing Obama’s health care overhaul or blocking a nuclear deal with Iran. The survey was conducted earlier this month as Obama and the GOP-controlled Congress crept toward a pair of deadlines that, without action, could trigger jolting political and economic reverberations. (Fram and Swanson, 10/27)
This estimate, offered Monday by Health and Human Services officials, is based on the benchmark second-lowest silver-level plan.
The Wall Street Journal: Premiums For Health Insurance Bought On Exchanges To Climb In 2016
The Obama administration said many consumers will see noticeable premium increases when buying health coverage on insurance exchanges in 2016, acknowledging for the first time what many health-care experts had predicted. ... The higher premiums are likely to intensify Republican’s claims that the health law isn’t holding down costs. The Obama administration is urging customers to go back online during open enrollment, which begins Nov. 1, and shop around to see if they can limit the impact of the cost increases. (Armour, 10/26)
The New York Times: Revamped HealthCare.Gov Opens With New Tools For Gauging True Cost Of Insurance
Consumers on Monday began shopping online for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act on a newly remodeled version of HealthCare.gov that worked more or less as promised by the government. When a consumer searches for health plans on the federal website, the results are listed in order of price — the premium — from the cheapest to the most expensive. But consumers can also see plans ranked by deductible, or the amount they must pay up front before the insurance begins to pay. (Pear, 26)
Kaiser Health News: Premiums For Key Marketplace Silver Plans Rising An Average Of 7.5 Percent, HHS Says
The HHS report, released late Monday, focuses on the monthly premiums for the second-lowest silver plan, also called the benchmark, which is used by the Internal Revenue Service to calculate tax credits to help pay for the premiums. The credits are available to people with incomes between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty line ($11,770 to $47,080 for an individual) who purchase coverage on the federal or state-based online marketplaces, or exchanges. (Carey and Rau, 10/27)
The Associated Press: Health Insurance Prices Up 7.5 Percent For Benchmark Plans
The federal government says the cost of a benchmark plan on HealthCare.gov will increase 7.5 percent for 2016 coverage, but most people will still be able to buy a plan for less than $100 a month, after tax credits. ... Insurers in many states had underpriced their plans and are raising rates because of medical inflation and higher claims than expected. Insurers are trying to find the right prices in the new marketplace. (10/26)
USA Today: Healthcare.gov Premiums Have Bigger Increase For 2016
About 70% of those who return to the federal insurance exchange when open enrollment starts Nov. 1 will pay less than $75 a month after they receive tax credits, a government analysis released Monday sho
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