In a speech to hospital executives earlier this week, new Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar outlined his agenda for improving the value of health services provided to patients. He clearly understands that the number one problem in U.S. health care is the prevalence of wasteful spending on services that drive up costs without improving the health of patients.

The many previous efforts aimed at tackling this immense and complex problem have barely put a dent in it. Azar made it evident that, from his perspective, the solution is a market-driven system with informed and active consumers making cost-effective decisions about their own care. He was also appropriately ambitious as he begins his tenure, putting everyone on notice — including those with vested interests in the status quo, as well as his own HHS employees — that big changes are coming, one way or another.

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The White House is pushing for several conservative policies to be included in a bill aimed at stabilizing ObamaCare, according to an administration memo obtained by The Hill.

The document gives support to funding controversial ObamaCare payments known as cost-sharing reductions (CSRs), which President Trump canceled in October. But it also lays out conservative policies that the administration wants included as well.

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Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch called Obamacare “the stupidest, dumbass bill” he’s ever seen at a recent American Enterprise Institute forum. “Some of you may have loved it,” he said. “And if you do, you are one of the stupidest, dumbass people I’ve ever met.”

Hatch ended up apologizing for his comment, but the question remains: If the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee considers Obamacare the “stupidest, dumbass” law on earth, then why on earth are his fellow Republicans so desperate to bail it out?

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Short-term health insurance is sometimes scoffed at as “sham insurance.” But to those who turn to it in need, this kind of insurance offers vital protection from unexpected medical costs. The Trump administration’s plan to extend how long it lasts makes sense.

Short-term plans offer temporary coverage for many of the same things standard health plans do. They don’t, however, cover things like preventive care, maternity care, or pre-existing medical conditions. Short-term plans do not meet the coverage requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but they have long offered a meaningful measure of protection to people who need to fill a gap in health insurance coverage.

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Having failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, congressional Republicans now want to create a new corporate welfare program to save it. Here’s a better idea: Congress and the administration should give states more latitude to clean up the mess—at no additional cost to the federal government. That is a central recommendation of a new study co-authored by Doug Badger, Senior Fellow at the Galen Institute, and Rea Hederman, Vice President of Policy at The Buckeye Institute. The study examines congressional and federal proposals that surfaced throughout last year in the broader context of the “repeal and replace” debate. The most promising ideas to repair broken insurance markets emanated not from Washington, but from the states. Read the full Mercatus Center study here.

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I come to bury IPAB, not to praise it.

Like Brutus and his co-conspirators wielding the knife against Julius Caesar, the budget deal Congress passed in the early morning hours of February 9 put to death an idea whose time apparently never came and, now never will. The Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), created in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), is history.

It is a rare moment when Republicans and Democrats agree on something they don’t like about the ACA. Behind IPAB’s demise is a belief that Congress shouldn’t delegate its powers to determine Medicare’s rules and a massive political force that reinforced that belief.

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Here’s what the Department of Health and Human Services could do:

  • Relax rules so companies of all sizes can take advantage of HRAs. Medium-sized and large employers want the same option of setting up HRAs for workers to buy ACA coverage, said Chris Condeluci, who worked on the ACA as a Senate GOP staff attorney.
  • Now that the individual mandate has been repealed, the administration could open the door for companies “to provide funds to buy noncompliant coverage,” said Gary Claxton, a vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

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Earlier this week, the Trump administration restored Obama-era rules that allow individuals to buy affordable insurance plans that aren’t bound by Obamacare’s costly regulations. Here’s the low-down on how those plans could affect your insurance choices.

Overcharging the healthy to undercharge the sick

Obamacare’s most significant change to the U.S. health care system was that it introduced an entirely new layer of federal regulations for individuals and families who buy their own health insurance directly, instead of getting it from their employer or from a government program like Medicare or Medicaid. Prior to 2014, these “individual market” or “nongroup” plans were regulated solely at the state level.

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Doug Badger, a senior fellow at the free-market Galen Institute, told LifeZette that the proposed rule change is the latest evidence that Trump is moving wherever possible to undo Obamacare restrictions on the health insurance market.

“I think the Trump administration is saying, ‘You know what? It’s probably better to have one of these short-term plans than none at all,’” said Badger, who also is a visiting scholar at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Badger said the Obamacare changes reflected Obama’s philosophy of one-size-fits-all health care.

“They want people to be either uninsured or have Obamacare policies,” he said.
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The Trump administration moved on Tuesday to deliver affordable health care to millions of Americans with a proposed rule that would expand the availability of short-term, limited duration plans to one year.

The rule comes as a result of the president’s executive order calling on federal agencies to take the necessary measures to scale back Obamacare’s burdensome regulations.
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