May 10, 2018, The Hill, Nathaniel Weixel- Republican Sen. John Kennedy (La.) on Thursday said Medicaid work requirements should be mandatory for states, and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) should take the lead to make it happen. During a hearing on the HHS budget, Kennedy said many Medicaid beneficiaries who aren’t working “would like to know the dignity of work” noting he would like to see HHS work with Congress to put together a program that would institute a mandatory requirement that Medicaid beneficiaries work 20 hours a week. “I appreciate that [the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] is willing to grant waivers, but why don’t we take the next step?” Kennedy said, adding separately that “it’s not going to be optional for governors.”
May 10, 2018, Politico, Dan Diamond and Rachana Pradhan- HHS leaders want states to settle the contentious question of whether Native Americans should get jobs in order to keep their health care - a move that likely won’t resolve the underlying challenge to tribal sovereignty and was sparked by an unusual split between the agency’s politically appointed administrators and legal counsel. The agency’s position that tribes are a racial group and not separate governments, has raised concerns in Congress and alarmed the tribes, who say it reverses centuries of protections enshrined in the Constitution and upheld by the Supreme Court. HHS Secretary Alex Azar, the agency’s former general counsel, told tribal leaders at a meeting Thursday that state Medicaid administrators will be able to work with tribal governments on designing any employment requirements.
May 10, 2018, Mississippi Today, Larrison Campbell- For months, Mississippi’s application for a program that would require certain Medicaid recipients to work has been considered a lock by supporters and opponents of the program. But last week the Trump Administration walked back support for the waivers in states like Mississippi that have opted out of Medicaid expansion, placing a question mark over a controversial program that has the strong support of Gov. Phil Bryant. In Mississippi, approximately 50,000 people fall into this category, and an April report from Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families estimated that, if the federal government approves Mississippi’s application as written, as many as half of them could lose their coverage over the next five years. “They claim the waiver will help people build a foundation for health, and that imposing a work requirement makes it somehow possible to have coverage. But in reality it makes it impossible for that population to have both employment and Medicaid coverage,” said Roy Mitchell, executive director of the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program.
May 10, 2018, NPR, Renee Montagne- Samantha Blackwell was working her way through a master’s degree at Cleveland State University when she found out she was pregnant. “I was 25, in really good health. I had been an athlete all my life. I threw shot put for my college, so I was in my prime,” she says with a laugh. Though it wasn’t planned, Blackwell’s pregnancy was embraced by her large and loving family and her boyfriend, who would soon become her husband. Her labor was quick, and she gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Yet just days after she was discharged, Blackwell was back in the hospital, in a medically induced coma, fighting a runaway infection that left her hovering between life and death.
May 10, 2018, Becker’s Hospital Review, Leo Vartorella- Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., plans to introduce the Air Ambulance Consumer Protection Act May 10, which would allow state insurance departments to have greater regulatory control over air ambulances, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Federal law currently bans states from regulating the routes and prices of air carriers, which includes air ambulances. However, the draft legislation would force air ambulances to separate transportation costs and care costs on patient bills. “Air ambulances, while they provide a lifesaving service, are currently operating in a gray area between healthcare and aviation, and have managed to not be held accountable by anyone - and it’s time for that to change,” Ms. McCaskill said in a statement, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “This bill will allow states to properly regulate air ambulance costs, which have skyrocketed in the last decade, and give consumers much-needed protections.” Patients often face large air ambulance bills due to the lack of in-network air ambulance providers.
May 7, 2018, Kaiser Health News, Phil Galewitz- The Trump administration’s promise of unprecedented flexibility to states in running their Medicaid programs hit its limit Monday. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services rejected a proposal from Kansas to place a three-year lifetime cap on some adult Medicaid enrollees. Since Medicaid began in 1965, no state has restricted how long beneficiaries could remain in the entitlement program. “We seek to create a pathway out of poverty, but we also understand that people’s circumstances change, and we must ensure that our programs are sustainable and available to them when they need and qualify for them,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said Monday at an American Hospital Association meeting in Washington, D.C. Arizona, Utah, Maine and Wisconsin have also requested lifetime limits on Medicaid.