Red States May Be Ready to Expand Medicaid - In Exchange for Work

July 30, 2018, PEW, Chistine Vestal- In several states this year, the march to bring health care benefits to more low-income residents came with the insistence that able-bodied adults who are just a fraction of all Medicaid recipients put in hours of work or volunteer time each month to retain the assistance. Although a court has temporarily halted Kentucky’s plan, three other expansion states - Arkansas, Indiana and New Hampshire have federally approved work requirement waivers in place. Another three expansion states Arizona, Ohio, and Maine are seeking permission to do the same. Utah is considering a Medicaid expansion that would include a work requirement, and eight non-expansion states Alabama, Kansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wisconsin - want to require work for some traditional Medicaid recipients. North Carolina has ruled that if it decides to expand Medicaid, it would do so with a work requirement.

As Trump Attacks, Insurers Boost Obamacare Marketing

July 29, 2018, Forbes, Bruce Jaspen- Large health insurers have joined the parade of startups investing more in marketing and operations to expand their geographic footprints and sell more individual coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Anthem, the nation’s second-largest health insurer, said last week its performance has improved from last year when losses triggered a major retreat from Obamacare. So much so, Anthem last week said the number of individual customers dropped by more than 1 million to 712,000 in the second quarter compared to last year. But Anthem executives say the insurer’s ACA individual business has stabilized enough that the operator of Blue Cross and Blue Plans in 14 states will expand in 2019 near areas where it still offers Obamacare coverage. It didn’t specify what states would see expansions, executives said in an update last week during Anthem’s second quarter earnings call.

Trump administration to push forward on Medicaid work requirements after court loss

July 26, 2018, The Hill, Jessie Hellmann- The Trump administration on Thursday said it would continue approving Medicaid work requirement requests from states, despite a district court ruling last month that blocked such requirements in Kentucky. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the ruling was a “blow” to the administration’s efforts to encourage work among “able-bodied” adults in the Medicaid program, but said he is “undeterred” and proceeding forward.” “We are fully committed to work requirements and community participation requirements in the Medicaid program,” Azar said at a speech at the Heritage Foundation on Thursday morning. “We will continue to litigate, we will continue to approve plans, we are continuing to work with states, and we’ll drive forward.“He added the administration would take what it learned from the court’s decision, even though it disagrees with it.

Millennials rack up the most medical debt, and more frequently

July 26, 2018, PBS News Hour, Laura Santhanam- People often imagine medical debt as something that comes from late-life catastrophic illness. But a recent study shows millennials carry a greater amount of this kind of debt than older Americans, and incur it more frequently. In this latest study published in Health Affairs, researchers looked for trends in Census data paired with anonymized 2016 credit records for more than 4 million Americans from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Consumer Credit Panel. With these data, researchers determined whether a past-due bill originated in a health care setting or elsewhere. They found that one in six Americans have past-due health care bills on their credit report, a debt totaling $81 billion in all. More than half of those bills - 53 percent - amount to less than $600 each. These findings are consistent with a 2017 Urban Institute report that suggested medical debt is the most common financial burden in collections in the United States, a country where health care spending amounts to 18 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product.

Medicaid forum questions proposed work requirements

July 25, 2018, Daily Journal, Michaela Gibson Morris- Mississippi’s Division of Medicaid frames a proposed work requirement waiver as a step up out of poverty, but consumer advocates see it as pulling the rug out from under vulnerable families.  During a Tuesday forum in Tupelo, the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program and Community Catalyst encouraged community advocates to oppose the proposed waiver, which is currently open to public comment through Aug. 18. “They’re trying to redefine what Medicaid is all about,” said Amanda Ptashkin, project manager for Community Catalyst’s Southern Health Partners program. “It’s not a work program.” Mississippi Medicaid has filed a waiver proposing work requirements for a small group of working age adults on its rolls. It exempts children under 19, pregnant women, the disabled and those over 65. The proposed waiver primarily affects very poor parents and caregivers of other Medicaid recipients, about 57,000 of its 750,000 Mississippi Medicaid beneficiaries. The Mississippi Health Advocacy Program continued the series of forums in Jackson on Wednesday and Biloxi today.

Trump Administration, in Reversal, Will Resume Risk Payments to Health Insurers

July 24, 2018, The New York Times, Robert Pear- The Trump administration, in an abrupt reversal, said Tuesday that it would restart a program that pays billions of dollars to insurers to stabilize health insurance markets under the Affordable Care Act. The administration suspended the program less than three weeks ago, saying it was compelled to do so by a federal court decision in New Mexico. But the administration said Tuesday that it would restore the program because otherwise health plans could become insolvent or withdraw from the market, causing chaos for consumers. In adopting a new rule, the administration essentially accepted the arguments of critics, including consumer groups, health insurance companies and Democrats in Congress, who said that suspending the payments would cause turmoil in insurance markets.