Arkansas is now the first state to use Medicaid expansion dollars to buy private coverage for many of its 250,000 newly eligible residents rather than enroll them in the existing Medicaid program. This week the Arkansas House of Representatives approved the plan, followed by the Senate, to confirm that the state will be implementing this “market-based approach” to expanding Medicaid.
The idea of buying private insurance for Medicaid recipients is emerging as a “conservative compromise” for some of the 24 states (home to more than 25 million uninsured residents) leaning toward rejecting federal funding the Affordable Care Act provides for the expansion. In the original legislation, the ACA required states to expand Medicaid to adults earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, $15,870 for an individual or $32,499 for a family of four. The federal government would fully cover the costs of this expansion for two years, with states gradually having to contribute 10% by 2020. Last summer, the Supreme Court struck down the Medicaid expansion requirement, allowing states to refuse federal funding and opt out of the expansion.
But most of these states, including Florida, Texas and Indiana, are leaving a lot of money on the table—from hundreds of millions to $1 billion or more in federal funding. Under pressure from healthcare providers and other interested parties, some governors view premium assistance programs that move the poor, disabled and frail elderly to the state insurance exchanges to buy private insurance as a way to capture this windfall without appearing to embrace ObamaCare.
In Missouri, for example, Republican state legislator Jay Barnes calls the Obama administration’s plan for Medicaid expansion a “one-size-fits-all, far-left-wing ideological path.”
Continue reading “The Arkansas Experiment: Is the ‘Private Option’ a Realistic Plan For Medicaid?”
Filed Under: Uncategorized
Tagged: Affordable Care Act, Arkansas, HHS, Insurance Exchanges, Medicaid Expansion, private insurance, The States
Apr 17, 2013
If it is done right, the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) may well promise uninsured Americans a lot more than cheap, reliable medical care. It can also open the door to the democratic empowerment of millions of poor people, who are often alienated from much of the nation’s civic life, by strengthening the organizations that give them a voice.
This year more than 30 million uninsured Americans are to begin signing up for Obamacare, but the vast majority of those eligible for either the expanded Medicaid program, or for subsidized private health insurance through state health exchanges, have no idea how to enroll. Surveys and focus groups have found that up to three-quarters of Americans who might directly benefit from the program are skeptical that the law can provide high-quality insurance coverage at a price they can afford.
Continue reading “Obamacare’s Other Benefit”
Filed Under: OP-ED, THCB
Tagged: Activism, Affordable Care Act, California, Covered California, Georgia, Health Insurance Exchanges, Health Plans, Louisiana, Medicaid Expansion, Nelson Lichtenstein, Texas, The States, the uninsured
Mar 27, 2013
“Your baby did not die for nothing,” Rebekah said, looking up at the monitor so Kim would not see her tears. “Your baby was a messenger to us.”
This is how a friend who specializes in high-risk obstetrics attempts to comfort a grieving patient when she delivers a stillborn baby, as portrayed in my novel Catching Babies.
This bedside homily is small succor in the face of unspeakable devastation. But the idea that one family’s heartbreak will contribute to medical research and in some remote but real way help spare families in the future is often the only comfort an OB/GYN or nurse-midwife has to offer.
Which is all the more reason to celebrate this week’s tremendous news about HIV: this time, the messenger baby lived.
According to reports, an infant was born in Mississippi with the virus that causes AIDS, given aggressive doses of the anti-viral medications known to contain — not cure — the disease, and is now disease-free at two-and-half years old. It is the second known “cure” of an HIV-positive patient, and there are no words to describe how exhilarating it feels to read or type those words for anyone who came of age during, or lost friends to, the ugly and terrifying scourge of AIDS.
So take a moment to savor it. A baby with HIV has been cured. No viral load. Disease-free. Yes!
Continue reading “HIV Messenger Baby”
Filed Under: OP-ED, THCB
Tagged: Affordable Care Act, high-risk populations, HIV Messenger Baby, HIV/AIDS, J.D. Kleinke, Medicaid Expansion, prenatal care, Universal coverage
Mar 8, 2013
Same story, different week: A governor who opposed the Affordable Care Act changes course and announces plans to opt into the Medicaid expansion.
Supporters of the ACA rejoice, conservatives grumble, and a new number gets tacked on the board – 24 states opting in, at last count.
Yet there’s more to the story than governors’ speeches. In at least eight of those states, lawmakers are warning that they may not go along with expansion plans.
Those legislative logjams — and what governors need to do to circumvent them — vary state by state , but the fights are falling out along party lines.
In Missouri, two GOP-led House committees this week voted down Medicaid expansion plans, despite Democrat Gov. Jay Nixon’s pledge to opt into the measure last year. Republican lawmakers in Arkansas, Montana and Washington have similarly been skeptical of their Democratic governors’ expansion positions. Meanwhile, four GOP governors who have backed the expansion are having difficulty corralling members of their own party.
Continue reading “How Many States Are Really Opting In?”
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: Affordable Care Act, Dan Diamond, Medicaid Expansion, The States
Feb 27, 2013
A million Floridians will now be eligible for Medicaid––the Obama administration is happy about that.
Republican Rick Scott gets to do it his way––in an almost entirely private market.
This from today’s Tampa Bay Times:
His [Scott's] endorsement of the expansion came hours after the federal government agreed to grant Florida a conditional waiver to privatize Medicaid statewide for the state’s more than 3 million current recipients, more than half of which are children or people under age 21.
Scott has agreed to only a three year trial expansion and the legislature must vote in favor of it––not a certainty. And, the Obama administration is taking some big risks––a five county trial of Scott’s privatization program has had lots of problems.
In prior posts I have said that Republican governors, so adamantly opposed to “Obamacare,” ought to go to Washington and negotiate a deal on Medicaid expansion. If they believe they can manage Medicaid better than the traditional federal route, which is what they claim every time they demand block grants, then they should put a deal on the table. Ultimately, the feds will pay 90% of costs and the state will pay 10% of the cost of the expansion. The Republican governors don’t believe they can save 10% if given more flexibility?
Continue reading “Rick Scott’s Privatization Experiment in Florida”
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: Medicaid Expansion, Rick Scott, Robert Laszewski
Feb 21, 2013
New Hampshire: We’re in.
North Carolina: We’re not.
The two states on Tuesday were the latest to announce their intentions on the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges. States have until Feb. 15 to tell HHS whether they’ll retain even some control over the exchanges, or let the Obama administration run the exchanges for them.
And while New Hampshire made clear that it wants to partner with the federal government to launch an insurance exchange, North Carolina backed out of a previous plan to do exactly that.
By Friday, we’ll know where half a dozen other states stand, too.
Background on Partnership Model
The Affordable Care Act didn’t originally spell out the partnership model; under the law, states faced a binary choice of running their own insurance exchanges or punting the responsibility to the government.
But HHS officials realized they needed to tweak the ACA’s approach, as more than 30 states — increasingly led by Republicans, who took over 11 statehouses in the 2010 election — announced they planned to opt out of the exchanges altogether. This would leave HHS officials with “an awesome task in establishing and operating exchanges in [so many] different states and coordinating those operations with state Medicaid programs and insurance departments,” before open enrollment begins in October 2013, Paul Starr writes in The American Prospect.
As a result, the agency in 2011 introduced the partnership model in hopes of shifting some of the responsibility for running exchanges back to the states.
Under the hybrid approach, the federal government takes on setting up the exchange’s website and other back-end responsibilities, while states keep functions such as approving health plans and setting up consumer assistance programs. HHS also hopes that the partnership model will be a path for states that weren’t ready to run their own exchanges to take them over eventually.
Continue reading “Why HHS Created Partnership Exchanges and Why More States Are Choosing Them”
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: Affordable Care Act, Arkansas, Avalere, Costs, Dan Diamond, Dan Mendelson, Delaware, Dylan Scott, GOP, HHS, Hybrid Health Insurance Exchanges, Medicaid Expansion, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Partnership Model, Tennessee, The States, Virginia, West Virginia
Feb 13, 2013
For the third year in a row, national health spending in 2011 grew less than 4 percent, according to the CMS Office of the Actuary. However, the report said modest rebounds in pharmaceutical spending and physician visits pointed toward an acceleration of costs in 2012 and beyond. CMS’s analysts make much of the cyclical character of health spending’s relationship to economic growth and also forecast a doubling of cost growth in 2014 to coincide with the implementation of health reform.
This non-economist respectfully disagrees and believes the pause could be more durable, even after 2014. Something deeper and more troublesome than the recession is at work here. As observed last year, the health spending curve actually bent downward a decade ago, four years before the economic crisis. Health cost growth has now spent three years at a pre-Medicare (indeed, a pre-Kennedy Administration) low.
More Than The Recession Is At Work
Hospital inpatient admissions have been flat for nine years, and down for the past two, despite compelling incentives for hospitals to admit more patients. Even hospital outpatient volumes flat-lined in 2010 and 2011, after, seemingly, decades of near double-digit growth. Physician office visits peaked eight years ago, in 2005, and fell 10 percent from 2009 to 2011 before a modest rebound late in 2011 — all this despite the irresistible power of fee-for-service incentives to induce demand.
The modest rebound in pharmaceutical spending (2.9 percent growth) in 2011 appears to have been a blip. IMS Health reports that US pharmaceutical sales actually shrank in 2012, for the first time in recorded history, and that generic drugs vaulted to the high 70s as a percent of prescriptions!
There is no question that the recession’s 7-million increase in the uninsured depressed cost growth. But the main reason health cost growth has been slowing for ten years is the steadily growing number of Americans — insured or otherwise — that cannot afford to use the health system. The cost of health care may have played an unscripted role in the 2008 economic collapse. A 2011 analysis published in Health Affairs found that after accounting for increased health premium contributions, out-of-pocket spending growth and general inflation, families had a princely $95 more a month to spend on non-health items in 2009 than a decade earlier. To maintain their living standards, families doubled their household debt in just five years (2003-2008), a debt load that proved unsustainable. When consumers began defaulting on their mortgages, credit cards and car loans, the resultant chain reaction brought down our financial markets, and nearly resulted in a depression.
By sucking up consumers’ income since 2008, the rising cost of health benefits has weighed heavily upon the recovery. According to the 2012 Milliman Cost Index, the cost of health coverage rose by 32.8 percent from 2008 to 2012, while family income did not grow at all in real terms. The total cost (employer and employee contributions plus OOP spending) of a standard PPO policy for a US family of four was $20,700, almost 42 percent of the US household median income in 2012.
Continue reading “The Gold Plated Health Care System: What the New Numbers Tell Us about the State of the Economy”
Filed Under: THCB, The Business of Health Care
Tagged: Affordable Care Act, California, CMS, CMS Office of the Actuary, Costs, Health care spending, Health Insurance Exchanges, Jeff Goldsmith, Massachusetts, Medicaid Expansion, The States
Feb 2, 2013
The Affordable Care Act contains a number of provisions intended to incent “personal responsibility,” or the notion that health care isn’t just a right — it’s an obligation. None of these measures is more prominent than the law’s individual mandate, designed to ensure that every American obtains health coverage or pays a fine for choosing to go uninsured.
But one provision that’s gotten much less attention — until recently — relates to smoking; specifically, the ACA allows payers to treat tobacco users very differently by opening the door to much higher premiums for this population.
That measure has some health policy analysts cheering, suggesting that higher premiums are necessary to raise revenue for the law and (hopefully) deter smokers’ bad habits. But other observers have warned that the ACA takes a heavy-handed stick to smokers who may be unhappily addicted to tobacco, rather than enticing them with a carrot to quit.
Under proposed rules, HHS would allow insurers to charge a smoker seeking health coverage in the individual market as much as 50% more in premiums than a non-smoker.
That difference in premiums may rapidly add up for smokers, given the expectation that Obamacare’s new medical-loss ratios already will lead to major cost hikes in the individual market. “For many people, in the years after the law, premiums aren’t just going to [go] up a little,” Peter Suderman predicts at Reason. “They’re going to rise a lot.”
Meanwhile, Ann Marie Marciarille, a law professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, adds that insurers have “considerable flexibility” in how to set up a potential surcharge for tobacco use. For example, insurers could apply a high surcharge for tobacco use in older smokers — perhaps several hundred dollars per month — further hitting a population that tends to be poorer.
Is this cost-shifting fair? The average American tends to think so.
Continue reading “About Time? Smokers Face Tough New Rules Under Obamacare”
Filed Under: THCB, The Insider's Guide To Health Care
Tagged: Affordable Care Act, Cancer, Dan Diamond, Insurers, Medicaid Expansion, MLR, Obamacare, Premiums, smoking, smoking cessation, tobacco
Jan 25, 2013
In 2009, Rick Scott founded Conservatives for Patients’ Rights, a health care pressure group opposed to President Obama’s health reforms.
In 2010, Scott ran for governor of Florida on a mission to repeal Obamacare.
In 2012, Scott … will work to implement Obamacare.
For some conservatives, it’s a shocking reversal. Leaders of Americans for Prosperity, the conservative organization backed by the influential Koch brothers, were publicly disappointed in the Florida governor — who not so long ago said the Affordable Care Act was “the biggest job killer in the history of the country.”
Now, it will be Scott’s job to help implement it.
Given his prominence, Scott’s move from Obamacare opponent to grudging supporter may be the biggest symbolic shift on the law since its passage.
The Florida governor was reportedly pressured by state legislators to negotiate with federal officials over the ACA, once November’s election made clear that Obamacare was here to stay.
But Scott won’t be the last GOP official to change his tune. More health care groups in other Republican-led states are putting similar pressure on their leaders to opt into the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, in hopes of securing additional dollars for providers.
Continue reading “What the Rick Scott Decision Says About the Future of Health Care in the U.S.”
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: 2012 Election, Dan Diamond, Florida, GAO, GOP, Kaiser Family Foundation, Medicaid, Medicaid Expansion, Medicare, Obamacare, PPACA, Rick Scott
Nov 29, 2012
The Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) is now settled law.
It will be implemented. It will also have to be changed but not until after it is implemented and the required changes becomes obvious and unavoidable. We can all debate what those things will be (cost containment is on top of my list) but it doesn’t matter what we think will happen––time will tell.
There are and will be more lawsuits.
I wouldn’t waste a lot of time worrying about those. Anyone in the market will do better spending their time getting ready.
But, when will the Affordable Care Act (ACA) be implemented?
So far, only about 15 states say they want to implement health insurance exchanges. Some of those may not make the October 1, 2013 kick-off date.
Maybe now that it is clear the law will go forward, some of the conservative states who have said they would not build one will get into high gear rather than have the Obama administration do it for them. But they may not have enough time to be ready in less than eleven months.
The Obama administration says they will be ready on time with federal exchanges. But they have not been at all transparent about just what they have so far done and can get done in the eleven short months that remain.
Starting today, the big question is can the Obama administration really be ready or will the October 1 insurance exchange launch date have to be pushed back, at least in some states?
It’s time for some post-election transparency and honesty from the administration.
Continue reading “The 2012 Elections and 2013 — A Daunting To-Do List”
Filed Under: THCB, The Business of Health Care
Tagged: 2012 Election, Affordable Care Act, cost containment, fiscal cliff, Health Insurance Exchanges, lawsuits, Medicaid Expansion, Obama administration, Obamacare, President Obama, Robert Laszewski, Washington
Nov 7, 2012