Mississippi legislators push for cigarette tax increase

March 9, 2018, The DM Online, Sarah Henderson- Some Mississippi lawmakers are working to discourage children and adults from beginning or continuing to smoke by proposing an increased tax on cigarettes. Legislators recently drafted five bills to propose the tax increase, but all five failed as of Feb. 21.Mississippians in favor of a tax increase aren’t ready to throw in the towel just yet. Senate Bill 3048, a bond bill, still remains and has the potential to be revised to increase cigarette taxes from the current 68 cents to at least $1 by late March. “On cigarettes, the rate of tax shall be Three and Four-tenths Cents (3.4¢) on each cigarette sold with a maximum length of one hundred twenty (120) millimeters; any cigarette in excess of this length shall be taxed as if it were two (2) or more cigarettes,” the bill reads.

A Health Plan ‘Down Payment’ Is One Way States Try Retooling Individual Mandate

March 9, 2018, Kaiser Health News, Rachel Bluth- As President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans tirelessly try to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, a number of states are scrambling to enact laws that safeguard its central provisions. The GOP tax plan approved by Congress in the last days of 2017 repealed the ACA penalty for people who fail to carry health insurance, a provision called the “individual mandate.” On Jan. 30, in Trump’s first State of the Union address, he claimed victory in killing off this part of the health law, saying Obamacare was effectively dead without it.  But before that federal action kicks in next year, some states are enacting measures to preserve the effects of the mandate by creating their own versions of it.

The Medicaid Freeloader Fallacy

March 8, 2018, U.S. News, Rachel Graves- The Trump administration touts work requirements as good for recipients’ health and a form of “compassion” that will help poor people “unlock their fullest potential,” as Seema Verma, the administration’s administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, wrote in a column in the Washington Post. Most policy experts argue the opposite, saying that Medicaid gives the poor access to health care that allows them to be healthy and work. Work requirements, paradoxically, will reduce access to health care and make it harder for people to work, health experts say.

House Dems warn against Medicaid lifetime limits

March 8, 2018, The Hill, Nathaniel Weixel- Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee warned the Trump administration not to approve requests from states that want to put a lifetime cap on how long people can be enrolled in the Medicaid program.In a letter sent to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, the lawmakers said lifetime limits would harm patients and the agency doesn’t even have the statutory authority to approve them. “Lifetime limits or caps on coverage would be an unspeakably cruel attack on Americans struggling to make ends meet,” the Democrats, led by Rep. Joe Kennedy III (Mass.), wrote. “We ask that you swiftly make clear that any such proposals will be rejected.”

Trump administration warns Idaho against its rebel insurance plans

March 8, 2018, The Washington Post, Amy Goldstein- The Trump administration issued a written warning to Idaho on Thursday that an audacious maneuver by the state to allow health plans that fall outside the Affordable Care Act’s insurance rules “may not be substantially enforcing” the law. The warning, in a letter to Idaho’s governor and insurance director by the administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), does not immediately block the state’s unique decision to encourage insurers to sell health coverage lacking some benefits required by the law, such as maternity care or certain coverage of preexisting conditions. The letter is a strong signal, however, that the Department of Health and Human Services is unwilling to allow Idaho to move forward on its own.

Health groups push for ObamaCare funding in omnibus package

March 6, 2018, The Hill, Nathaniel Weixel- A coalition of health care providers and insurers on Tuesday called on House and Senate leaders to include additional funding for ObamaCare programs in the upcoming omnibus package to fund the government. “Immediate action is necessary to reduce premiums for individuals and families that purchase coverage on their own,” the groups wrote in the letter. The coalition, which includes America’s Health Insurance Plans, the American Hospital Association, and the American Medical Association, said Congress should approve multiple years of funding for ObamaCare cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments. They also called for lawmakers to establish a reinsurance program to bring down premiums and help cover the costs of people with significant health care needs.