State insurance officials pleaded with senators on Wednesday to quickly act to stabilize the ObamaCare markets, calling for a multiyear extension of key payments to help fund premiums for low-income customers.
Congress must pass a fix by the end of September to shore up the wobbly individual markets, several officials said, in particular funding for key ObamaCare insurer payments known as cost-sharing reductions (CSR).
“The CSR funding issue is the single most critical issue that you can address to help stabilize insurance markets for 2018 and potentially bring down costs,” Tennessee’s insurance commissioner Julie Mix McPeak told the Senate Health Committee.
The panel kicked off a series of hearings Wednesday on stabilizing the markets. If Congress can pass a bill, it would represent the biggest bipartisan update since President Obama signed the law in 2010.
Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) wants to find consensus by the end of next week. To sell the fix, he and ranking member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) held a private meeting with senators not on the committee and the witnesses who testified as Wednesday’s hearing.
“If we can do two things, that would be two more things that we have agreed on in a bipartisan way in the last seven years in health insurance,” Alexander told reporters.
“And then let the leaders see if we can pass it, and hope the House does and that the president signs it.”
Despite some pushback that could still come from conservatives calling the payments an “insurer bailout,” Alexander and Murray hope to cobble together a bipartisan group that agree some continuation of the payments is necessary.
Read more here.
More from the hearing… Insurance official to Congress: ObamaCare not collapsing
A Pennsylvania insurance official told Congress Wednesday that ObamaCare is not collapsing, as some Republicans have argued.
Speaking at a Senate Health Committee hearing on efforts to stabilize Affordable Care Act (ACA) markets, Teresa Miller, Pennsylvania’s acting Human Services secretary and former insurance commissioner, said that the notion is “just false.”
“I’m not going to sit here this morning and tell you that the ACA is perfect,” she said. “I think we all know that it’s not, but the narrative that the ACA is failing and imploding is just false.”
Read more here.
Anthem pulls back from half of Kentucky counties
Insurance giant Anthem is exiting ObamaCare markets in half of the counties in Kentucky, leaving many individuals with only one choice of insurer for next year.
The insurer has already announced plans to scale back participation or leave the ACA’s public exchanges in Indiana, Wisconsin, Missouri, Nevada and Ohio.
The company cited the continued uncertainty over the future of ObamaCare as the main reason for the decision to pull back to just 59 counties. They also mentioned continued problems in the individual market.
Anthem had previously planned to offer a health plan in all 120 counties in the state.
“While we are pleased that some steps have been taken to address the long term challenges … the individual market remains volatile,” the company said in a statement Wednesday.
Read more here.
McCain backs Graham-Cassidy ObamaCare repeal effort
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Wednesday that he supports a newer version of an ObamaCare repeal-and-replace bill, throwing some support behind the last-ditch effort.
McCain said he backs a bill from Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) that would convert ObamaCare spending into block grants for states.
Asked if he supported it, McCain told reporters, “Yes. You think I wouldn’t be?”
Graham is one of McCain’s closest friends.
McCain was one of three crucial Republican votes that killed the GOP repeal effort in July.
He at the time called repeatedly for the Senate to return to “regular order,” meaning a bill would go through a committee first.
The measure faces long odds, despite the boost from McCain. The White House is pushing for it, but Senate GOP leadership has so far not expressed interest publicly.
Read more here.
Conway: Trump would sign Graham-Cassidy ObamaCare repeal bill
White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said Wednesday that President Trump would sign an ObamaCare repeal plan from GOP Sens. Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyWeek ahead: Congress returns to take up bipartisan health care effort Trump, Congress face packed September agenda Senate rulemaker: Fast-track for ObamaCare repeal ends this month MORE (La.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamWeek ahead: Congress returns to take up bipartisan health care effort DACA debate turns toward Congress as Trump readies decision Graham backs Trump ending DACA with 6-month delay MORE (S.C.) if Congress passed it.
“The president’s ready, he’s ready with pen in hand to sign health-care reform if, say, Graham-Cassidy moves forward. A lot of the governors seem to be supportive of that, people have been working on that very strongly over the recess,” Conway said on “America’s Newsroom” on Fox News.
Trump has continued to press for legislation repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, but the Senate’s Republican leadership has moved away from the effort after the chamber failed to pass a scaled-down version of a repeal bill in late July.
Read more here.
Groups press senators for two years of ObamaCare subsidy funding
The Senate’s bipartisan health care bill needs to fund ObamaCare’s subsidy payments for at least two years, insurers, hospitals and other stakeholder groups said Tuesday.
In a letter to the Senate Health Committee, groups including America’s Health Insurance Plans, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Hospital Association and the American Medical Association said Congress needs to fund cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments through at least 2019.
“Without two years of CSR funding, uncertainty will persist and the Congress will need to address these same issues early next year,” the groups wrote. “By committing to CSR funding for two years, it would go a long way to bring much needed stability to the individual market and promote access to more affordable coverage and choices for millions of Americans.”
Read more here.
What we’re reading:
Lasker Prizes go to Planned Parenthood and developers of HPV vaccine (The New York Times)
Move to end DACA leaves some young immigrants fearing for their health (californiahealthline.org)
More than half of rural counties don’t have a hospital where women can give birth (The Washington Post)
State by state:
Preparing for Hurricane Irma, hospitals in Florida Keys evacuate patients (statnews.com)
Oregon clears Medicaid backlog, removes 55,000 people (AP)
Illinois neglects promised pay increase to caregivers (WAND)
Join us Tuesday, September 12 for “Turning Genes into Medicine: Reimagining Our Health Care System,” featuring Rep. Suzan DelBeneSuzan DelBeneDems on tax reform outreach: Talk is cheap Surveillance reform déjà vu Congress must stop soft ‘earmarking’ in Pentagon spending bill MORE (D-Wash.) and Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.). Topics of discussion include incentivizing medical innovation and the impact of new treatments on the American health ecosystem and patients. RSVP Here
Join us Wednesday, September 13 for “America’s Opioid Epidemic: Search for Solutions,” featuring Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanDOJ is not wielding its power to bring down online sex trafficking OPINION | US must prepare for a decade of tensions, North Korea nuclear tests US Senate must follow House lead in combating human trafficking MORE (R-Ohio) and Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.). Topics of discussion include national and local strategies to tackle the opioid crisis, and addressing and eliminating barriers to treatment and recovery. RSVP Here