Articles on the implementation of ObamaCare.

The Senate confirmed Alex Azar as secretary of Health and Human Services, installing him atop a department seeking a fresh start after a turbulent first year under the Trump administration. Azar cruised to confirmation Wednesday in a 55-43 vote, with six Senate Democrats — largely from red states — and Independent Angus King joining nearly all Republicans to back his candidacy.

A former pharmaceutical executive and twice-confirmed veteran of George W. Bush’s HHS, the 50-year-old nominee earned bipartisan respect in recent weeks for his familiarity with the sprawling agency and a stated desire to reset relations with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

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Key House Republicans are warming to a proposal aimed at bringing down ObamaCare premiums, raising the chances of legislative action this year to stabilize the health-care law.

House GOP aides and lobbyists say that top House Republicans are interested in funding what is known as reinsurance. The money could be included in a coming bipartisan government funding deal or in another legislative vehicle.

Any action from Republicans to stabilize ObamaCare would be a major departure from the party’s long crusade against the law, but after having failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act last year, the discussion is shifting.

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A growing number of mostly Republican-led states are rushing to follow Kentucky’s lead in requiring thousands of people on Medicaid to work or lose health coverage.

The governors of South Dakota, Alabama, Louisiana and South Carolina have said in recent weeks that they plan to pursue work requirements for their Medicaid programs, following the Trump administration’s release of guidelines for the concept in January.

“Whenever possible, we should always endeavor to help South Carolinians in need find their path to gainful employment and away from temporary assistance of government,” South Carolina GOP Gov. Henry McMaster tweeted Jan. 11, the same day federal officials announced the new guidance.

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President Donald Trump vowed Monday that his new health-care chief Alex Azar — a former top drug-company executive who raised prescription prices — is “going to get those prescription drug prices way down” as Azar was sworn in for his job.

“It’s doing to come rocketing down,” Trump said as Azar, 50, stood at his side in the White House before taking his oath as secretary of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department from Vice President Mike Pence.

“We have to get the prices of prescription drugs way down, and unravel the tangled web of special interests that are driving prices up for medicine, and are really hurting patients,” Trump said.

“And nobody knows that process better than Alex.”

A House committee voted Tuesday to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients, something Republicans are seeking as a precondition to expanding the health-care program to more low-income, uninsured Virginians. It was not clear how many of the state’s 1 million Medicaid recipients would be affected if the bill becomes law because the majority are children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with disabilities, all of whom would be exempt under the plan because they are considered to face some barrier to work.

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Using 2017 dataOut of 9,201,805 healthcare.gov enrollees, here’s how many would win and lose if the insurer subsidies were now funded:

  • Winners: 682,712 unsubsidized exchange enrollees enrolled in middle-of the-road “silver” plans
  • Losers: 1,621,325 enrollees who receive premium subsidies and don’t have silver plans
  • Likely losers: 1,706,780 enrollees with silver plans and incomes between 200%-400% of the federal poverty level.

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Legislation to expand Medicaid in Virginia failed Thursday after a state Senate panel voted on party lines to defeat the measure.

The state’s Education and Health Committee voted down the bill 8-7. The bill can be brought up at another time, but if the committee doesn’t take further action, the bill is dead.

The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Emmett Hanger (R), would have directed the state’s secretary of Health and Human Resources to submit a Medicaid expansion waiver to the federal government.

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Concerned about soaring health care costs, Idaho on Wednesday revealed a plan that will allow insurance companies to sell cheap policies that ditch key provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

It’s believed to be the first state to take formal steps without prior federal approval for creating policies that do not comply with the Obama-era health care law. Health care experts say the move is legally dubious, a concern supported by internal records obtained by The Associated Press.

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The Trump administration is exploring ways to allow more Americans toqualify for exemptions from the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, which goes away in 2019 but is still in effect this year. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is reportedly working on guidance that would expand “hardship” exemptions from the mandate that would apply this year, meaning they could be cited by filers preparing their 2018 taxes next year.

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Thousands of Medicaid recipients in Mississippi would be required to work to be eligible for the program if the Trump administration approves a controversial state waiver request that recently opened for public comment.

The proposal is likely to set off a firestorm of criticism from Democrats and health advocates, who argue that work requirements, combined with Mississippi’s strict Medicaid eligibility requirements, will result in thousands of people losing their coverage.

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