Fifth year’s ACA enrollment season opening with daunting obstacles

October 30, 2017, The Washington Post, Amy Goldstein and Juliet Eilperin- In Indianapolis, the director of the state’s largest organization helping people find Affordable Care Act insurance had to lay off nine of 13 staff members last month because the federal government had just taken away more than 80 percent of the grant that paid for their work. In Atlanta, festival goers at the annual Pride weekend in mid-October were mystified that members of Insure Georgia had a table set up because they thought President Trump had gotten rid of the health-care law. And across Ohio, residents starting to phone a call center for appointments with coaches to renew their coverage are being told that the service no longer exists and that, for help, they should go to a website, a hotline, an insurance broker, a county health department or if all else fails their member of Congress

Big Gains In Latino Coverage Poised To Slip During Chaotic Enrollment Season

October 30, 2017, Kaiser Health News, Paula Andalo- Latinos, who just a year ago were highly sought customers for the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace plans may not get the same hard sell this year. The Trump administration’s laissez-faire approach toward the upcoming enrollment period for the health law’s insurance marketplaces could reverse advances made in the number of Latinos with coverage, fear navigators and community activists. Enrollment outreach efforts during the Obama administration targeted Latinos, both because they have a high uninsured rate and because a large proportion of the community is young and fairly healthy, criteria prized by insurers to help balance older, sicker customers, who are more likely to sign up. Nearly a million people who identify themselves as Latino or Hispanic enrolled in marketplace plans this year, making up a tenth of customers. The uninsured rate among Latinos dropped from 43 percent in 2010 to under 25 percent in 2016. Still, millions are eligible and remain uninsured.

Health law sign-ups start, and some see a ‘hostile takeover’

October 30, 2017, ABCNews, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Associated Press- It’s the sign-up season for the Affordable Care Act, but the Trump administration isn’t making it easy cutting the enrollment period in half, slashing advertising and dialing back on counselors who help consumers get through the process. Many people already faced fewer choices and higher premiums. But President Donald Trump’s decision to cancel a subsidy to insurers that lowers consumer costs compounded the turmoil, pushing premiums even higher. Add it all up and the number of uninsured people may start rising again, eroding gains that drove the uninsured rate to a historic low. “It certainly is a hostile takeover,” said health policy expert Joe Antos of the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute.
“We are going to see a decline in enrollment,” he added. “The people who will drop out in droves are the ones who are not getting a premium subsidy.” Open enrollment starts Wednesday and ends Dec. 15 in most states, a sign-up period six weeks shorter than last years.

Governor proposes putting Medicaid eligibility with DHS

October 28, 2017, Daily Journal, Bobby Harrison- Gov.Phil Bryant will ask the 2018 Mississippi Legislature to move authority for determining the eligibility for those applying for Medicaid benefits to the Department of Human Services.“Gov. Bryant has asked the Division of Medicaid to submit a plan to transfer eligibility determination responsibilities to the Mississippi Department of Human Services,” said Clay Chandler, a spokesman for Bryant. “The governor believes doing so would increase efficiency and ultimately save taxpayers money. This method was successfully used until 2004.“Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, former House Public Health chairman and considered one of the chamber’s experts on Medicaid-related issues, said Medicaid always has had its own eligibility workers and it would be bad policy to remove them.

MS Pulse: Agency rejecting 98.5% of welfare applicants to take over Medicaid eligibility

October 27, 2017, The Clarion-Ledger, Anna Wolfe- It appears the Mississippi Department of Human Services is poised to gain power over determining who’s eligible for Medicaid.  This is the agency that approved 1.5 percent of new applicants for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits last year. In a state with the lowest median income and highest rate of poverty in the nation, Mississippi also had the highest rate of rejecting folks applying for these benefits. In addition to the shift of
power, a letter Gov. Phil Bryant sent the Division of Medicaid and Human Services
Oct. 12 suggests the possibility of a work requirement finding its way into the upcoming Medicaid debate. Leighton Ku, professor and director of the Center for Health Policy Research at the Milken Institute School of Public Health, calculated the impact of a
work requirement for Medicaid in April. He found that if implemented nationwide, 11 million people, or 15 percent of Medicaid recipients, could risk losing their health insurance.

CMS to allow states to define essential health benefits

October 27, 2017, Modern Healthcare, Harris Meyer, Shelby Livingston and Virgil Dickson- The CMS proposed a rule late Friday aimed at giving states more flexibility in stabilizing the Affordable Care Act exchanges and in interpreting the law’s essential health benefits as a way to lower the cost of individual and small group health plans. In
the 365-page proposed rule issued late Friday, the agency said the purpose is to give states more flexibility and reduce burdens on stakeholders in order to stabilize the
individual and small-group insurance markets and improve healthcare affordability. The CMS said the rule would give states greater flexibility in defining the ACA’s minimum essential benefits to increase the affordability of coverage. States would play a larger role in the certification of qualified health plans offered on the federal insurance exchange.