On Monday, CMS published a number of policies changing the dynamics of the individual market, including the Benefit and Payment Parameters for 2019 Final Rule, guidance on hardship exemptions, and a bulletin on transitional (grandmothered) plans. When interpreting all of these policies it’s important to keep in mind the following: What is success? And who is defining it?

The Obama Administration managed ACA implementation with the clear intention of making sure the outcome met the goals of the law: more people covered, more choices of coverage for those people, and lower premiums.  While the success of their efforts can be debated, the intention was always known.

For the Trump Administration, it is not necessarily clear how successful implementation of this next rule will be judged.  Are they trying to maximize the number of people covered, maximize the number of choices available or lower premiums?  What is the organizing principle?  Is it as simple as providing additional regulatory flexibility?

There are two other stakeholders who also have to determine their definition of success in the face of this rule: states and insurers.  For states, they will have to determine if and how they will use the additional flexibility granted to them under their rule.  Insurers, with the loss of the individual mandate and CSRs, and the looming threat of STLDIs and AHPs, have to decide if the rule provides a stable environment for participation.

From now through the start of the next open enrollment period, we expect significant backstage drama as insurers, states, and the Administration answer these questions.  The offerings and premiums available to Americans six days before the midterm elections depend on these decisions. Continue Reading CMS Benefit and Payment Rule: What is Success for the ACA?

Congress will continue its work in addressing the opioid crisis this week with a hearing in the Senate Finance Committee. There were reports last week that Congress will also consider legislation around telemedicine, which is sure to capture stakeholders attention. The Administration is also going to take another look at drug pricing which is setting the stage for another busy work period. We cover this and more in this week’s preview, which you can find here.

In early January, Idaho Governor Butch Otter signed an executive order (EO) directing the state’s Department of Insurance (DOI) to “seek creative options” to expand “access” to health insurance coverage for Idahoans. The EO essentially deemed to allow health carriers in the state to offer plans on the health insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) “even if not all [ACA] requirements are met.”[1]  For many spectators, the most significant aspect about the order was not that it instructed a state agency to ignore federal law, but that it left open the question whether the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”), under the direction of Trump Administration appointee Seema Verma, would step in to enforce the ACA.  CMS’s response in early March was that it would enforce the ACA’s penalties against carriers that attempted to sell non-compliant plans, which was a rare instance of the Administration defending a law that it has otherwise attempted to eliminate. Continue Reading What Lessons Can We Take From The Administration’s Refusal to Allow Idaho to Dismantle the ACA Marketplaces?

As of March 2018, there are twenty-four Medicaid 1115 waivers pending CMS approval.   Medicaid 1115 waivers, Research and Demonstration Projects, give states experimental, pilot, or demonstration projects likely to assist in promoting the objectives of Medicaid. 1115 waivers allow states additional flexibility to design and improve their programs, i.e., to demonstrate and evaluate state-specific policy approaches to better serving Medicaid populations.

In general, 1115 waivers can be comprehensive, such as expanding Medicaid to the new adult group, or narrow to target a specific benefit or population. 1115 waivers must be budget neutral, meaning the waiver cannot exceed the federal costs if the waiver never existed. States must include a research and evaluation component of the 1115 waiver.

Proposals and concepts in 1115 waivers are developed at the state level. The state then submits an application to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for approval. CMS and the state then negotiate the terms of the waiver application. Typically, 1115 waivers are approved for five years and then renewed for up to three years at a time. Continue Reading Trends in 1115 Medicaid Waivers and Summaries of Each Pending Application

Congress has until Friday to finalize a government spending bill. Over the next couple of days it will decide whether to move forward with a number of consequential health care issues, market stabilization and drug pricing chief among them. There is also the possibility of movement around short-term health plans. We cover this and more in this week’s health care preview, which can be found here.

This week, Congress returns to Washington with 11 days to finalize a government spending bill. Standing in the way are a number of unresolved health care issues, including drug pricing and market stabilization. There are a number of moving parts that will begin to come together this week. Also on our radar screen is the ongoing marketplace issues in the state of Idaho, where the federal government is urging the state to consider short-term limited duration insurance plans. We cover this and more in the health care preview, which you can find here.

Congress has three weeks to finalize an omnibus spending package. There are a number of issues that are expected to come up, including market stabilization and drug pricing, among other issues. There’s also activity at the state level on Medicaid waivers and work requirements. We cover this and more in this week’s preview, which you can find here.

Congress is back in session and will begin its work in finalizing a final spending bill for fiscal year 2018. Both chambers are considering new ways to address the opioid crisis, and we should expect a renewed push around gun control and mental health. We cover this and more in this week’s health care preview.

Today, the White House released its FY 2019 budget proposal, outlining its policy priorities for the fiscal year. In health care, the President’s budget focuses on prescription drug pricing and opioid funding. It included a number of legislation proposals relating to Medicare Part D, as well as the creation of a Medicaid demonstration allowing states to test new financing structures to cover prescription drugs. The proposal also discusses the future of the Affordable Care Act, including the Medicaid expansion, as well as appropriating cost-sharing reduction payments for FY 2018 through the end of calendar year 2019. Proposals in the budget that are regulatory in nature are certainly items worth monitoring since its likely they would be approved and implemented under this Administration.

We cover this and more in the budget analysis, which can be found here.

 

 

This week, the President’s FY 2019 budget will be released, and the Administration will spend the next couple of weeks touting its goals. How this activity is received in Congress will play out in various committee hearings, as will issues like drug pricing, which the Administration is closely examining.  On the regulatory side, is this the week that we finally see action on short-term limited duration insurance plans? We cover what that could mean and more in this week’s health care preview.