The Trump administration hopes to move forward with a rule expanding alternatives to ObamaCare plans by this summer, Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta said Monday.
The rule allows for small businesses and self-employed individuals to band together to buy insurance as a group in what are known as association health plans.
“We hope to have that by this summer,” Acosta said Monday during a tax reform event alongside President Trump in Florida.
. . .
The state’s antitrust lawsuit against Sutter Health is a welcome move to stop Sutter from inflating health care costs across the Northern California market.
The lawsuit alleges that Sutter has illegally used its market power to compel commercial health plans to contract with all or none of its hospitals, extract exorbitant prices and prohibit use of financial incentives to encourage use of lower-cost providers.
The problem is not just Sutter, however, but insurance-contracted provider networks (preferred provider organizations and health maintenance organizations), where insurers negotiate medical service prices, keep those prices hidden and make other private deals that maximize revenue at purchaser and consumer expense.
. . .
Late last year, President Trump issued Executive Order 13813, “Promoting Healthcare Choice and Competition Across the United States.” The goal was to help more Americans access additional affordable health care options. The executive order prioritizes three areas for improvement: association health plans (AHPs), short-term insurance, and health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs).
Enhancing additional affordable options are important given emerging news stories about non-subsidized families and individuals facing crushing insurance premiums and out of pocket costs and increases under the ACA.
Two weeks into his new post, HHS Secretary Alex Azar on Wednesday took another step in the Trump administration’s move toward relaxing the Affordable Care Act’s moratorium on new physician-owned hospitals.
In the HHS budget hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas) asked for Azar to commit the administration to help repeal the ACA’s “ban” on physician-owned hospitals.
. . .
Amazon is looking to turn its medical-supplies business into a major supplier to U.S. hospitals and outpatient clinics. The online retailer is pushing hard to expand its foothold in medical supplies, creating a marketplace where hospitals could shop to stock emergency rooms, operating suites and outpatient facilities.
. . .
The House passed legislation Tuesday to ease the ObamaCare rule that requires restaurants, convenience stores and supermarkets to list the calorie count of each menu item before it’s set to take effect in May.
The Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act, introduced by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), passed, 266-157, with the support of 32 Democrats.
. . .
Amazon announced Tuesday that it will join with J.P. Morgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway to wade into the jungle of U.S. health care, and the news slashed billions in stock-market value from health-care companies in mere hours. American health care could benefit from creative destruction, though this would be Amazon’s toughest fixer upper to date.
The announcement offered no details—nothing on if the companies will set up provider networks or walk-in clinics or what. But an early red flag: The press release says the group will form an “independent company that is free from profit-making incentives and constraints.”
The problem with U.S. health care is not an incentive for profit, which has driven innovation and cures for diseases like hepatitis C. The fundamental problem is that the cost of a service is disconnected from underlying value. Patients don’t know the price of services and consume health care as if it’s free since government or employers are the third-party payers for most Americans.
American workers have not seen their wages grow in tandem with the success of their employers.
Meanwhile, health spending has been growing faster than the broader economy. Health benefits consequently are getting more expensive for employers to offer, and companies are responding by making employees shoulder more of their own health care costs — either through higher premiums or higher out-of-pocket costs, like deductibles and copays.
. . .
Congressional Republicans are hoping to pass a temporary funding bill that would keep the government open until mid-February, thus allowing negotiations to continue on immigration and other matters. To attract more support for the stop-gap bill, Republican leaders have proposed combining it with other unrelated and more popular provisions, including a two-year delay of the so-called “Cadillac tax.” Delaying the “Cadillac tax” again — it was already pushed back once — is a bad idea. It would set back the cause of market-driven health care rather than advance it.
. . .
The House on Thursday night approved a stopgap measure to keep the government open less than 36 hours before a possible shutdown, shifting the drama to a Senate where Democrats are threatening to block the GOP bill.
The House measure includes a six-year extension of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which expired at the end of September. States are at risk of running out of money to cover health care for children in low-income families.
. . .