Trump’s health care brain trust says no thanks

April 8, 2019, Politico, Adam Cancryn and Alice Miranda Ollstien - President Donald Trump promised a new plan to replace Obamacare. But the four Senate Republicans he tapped for the job aren’t jumping at the opportunity. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) says any new plan has to come from the White House - and that he had no warning Trump planned to make him part of the health policy group. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) won’t say more than he and colleagues are “working on health care thoughts.” John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), when asked about the Republican plan, turned the question back on the opposition, saying, “Democrats want to go to the complete government takeover of health care.”

Economic Ripples: Hospital Closure Hurts A Town’s Ability To Attract Retirees

April 7, 2019, NPR, Blake Farmer - When a rural community loses its hospital, health care becomes harder to come by in an instant. But a hospital closure also shocks a small town’s economy. It shuts down one of its largest employers. It scares off heavy industry that needs an emergency room nearby. And in one Tennessee town, a lost hospital means lost hope of attracting more retirees. Seniors, and their retirement accounts, have been viewed as potential saviors for many rural economies trying to make up for lost jobs. But the epidemic of rural hospital closures is threatening those dreams in places like Celina, Tenn.. The town of 1,500, whose 25-bed hospital closed March 1, has been trying to position itself as a retiree destination.

Medicaid expansion tied to fewer heart-related deaths, study finds

April 5, 2019, CNN, Jacqueline Howard - As President Donald Trump continues to make clear that he wants to kill the Affordable Care Act, new research suggests that a big part of the ACA—the expansion of the Medicaid program—was linked with fewer cardiovascular-related deaths in counties where expansion took place. Between 2010 and 2016, counties in states where Medicaid expanded had 4 fewer deaths per 100,000 residents each year from cardiovascular causes after expansion, compared with counties in non-expansion states, according to the research. The findings were presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions on Friday. Enrollments for insurance under the ACA began in 2014.

Trump administration urging Alaska to be first to apply for Medicaid block grant

April 4, 2019, The Hill, Nathaniel Weixel - The Trump administration has been urging Alaska’s governor to apply to be the first state to change its Medicaid program funding to a block grant. “Your Medicaid administrator, Seema Verma, has urged us to be the first state to receive Medicaid dollars as a block grant,” Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) wrote in a letter to President Trump. “We are eager to do this, but your support of her on this ‘first’ will keep the proper focus and speed on this application.” The letter, dated March 1, was first reported by Alaska Public Media.  Imposing block grants in Medicaid has long been a major conservative goal, and the controversial idea was included in many of the ObamaCare repeal and replace debates. Republicans say policies such as block grants allow for more state flexibility and are more fiscally sustainable.

Medicaid Expansion a Boost for Health Centers, Survey Shows

April 4, 2019, U.S. News, Gaby Galvin - Safety Net Health clinics have fared better in states that have expanded Medicaid coverage to more low-income residents than those in states that have not expanded the health program, according to a new survey. Federally qualified health centers, along with “look-alike” clinics that lack the same grant funding, provide low-cost primary, behavioral health and dental care, serving millions of people - and 1 in 6 Medicaid patients - across the country. Federally qualified health center patients are more likely to suffer from chronic conditions, but the centers spend considerably less to care for patients than other providers. The Affordable Care Act allocated $11 billion to operate and expand such community health centers over a five-year period. Since the law was enacted in 2010, millions of low-income people have obtained health coverage, in large part through the act’s push for states to expand Medicaid coverage. The survey and accompanying report from the Commonwealth Fund points to the increase in insured patients in particular as fueling the improved financial stability of community health centers - especially in states that expanded their Medicaid programs.

How this Medicare loophole can lead to surprise medical bills

April 3, 2019, PBS, Philip Moeller - Surprise medical bills - for procedures that people later learn are not covered by insurance - are drawing increasing government scrutiny in Washington, with House Democrats planning hearings on ways to curb such charges. 
In a rare show of bipartisanship, Republicans have promised to work with their Democratic counterparts to find solutions. Federal rules generally prevent people on Medicare from being hit with such surprise charges. However, Americans need to be aware of a major hole in Medicare’s safety net. It concerns people who need skilled nursing care after being hospitalized for a health issue.