“When Congress returns this week, action in both chambers will mostly be a show for the voters back home ahead of the midterm election. In the House, that will include a vote on a bill to allow insurance companies to continue offering any plan that was sold in the group market in 2013.
Noticeably absent from congressional politicking in the next few weeks is the Affordable Care Act’s risk corridor program, which was, as recently as a few months ago, a major Republican criticism of the law. But that doesn’t mean the “insurer bailout” fight is dead. Republicans in both chambers are quietly working to challenge the legality and projected cost of the program. And that could tee up the issue to become a bargaining chip in the budget fights to come at the end of this year, regardless of who wins the Senate.
The Affordable Care Act’s risk corridor program runs from 2014 through 2016, and was established to encourage insurers to take a chance on covering an unknown population — the Americans who would be purchasing insurance on state and federal exchanges. The program collects funds from qualified health plans that bring in more money than they paid for medical claims, and then pays that money to plans with claims that cost more than they brought it from consumers.
But what happens if there isn’t enough money from well-performing insurers to pay all of the insurers that missed the mark? The federal government is on the hook, but where they find the money to pay those insurers is a question being debated throughout Washington. That’s because the law did not give the federal government a clear appropriation to spend money to make up for losses. And Republicans are, of course, very unlikely to give them one.”

“The Cover Oregon board on Thursday moved toward keeping the health insurance exchange semi-independent rather than having state agencies take it over.
That position, if confirmed in a vote that could take place later this month, would be a significant rebuff of Gov. John Kitzhaber. In a statement Thursday, Kitzhaber said having state agencies take over the exchange “offers the lowest-risk path.”
Whatever the board’s vote, it could have ramifications for control of the exchange as well as for the November elections, political observers say.
For months the board had been debating what to recommend to the Legislature about its future. In March, Kitzhaber asked the board to examine their governance structure and determine whether changes were called for.”

“The District of Columbia U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington on Thursday said the full 11-member court will rehear (PDF) the controversial case that ruled Americans could not receive subsidies to help pay for plans on federally run health insurance exchanges. Oral arguments will begin Dec. 17.
The court’s decision to rehear the case en banc, which experts said is rare for the D.C. appellate court, vacates the judgment issued earlier this summer. On July 22, a three-judge panel ruled 2-1 in Halbig v. Burwell that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act forbade people with lower incomes from receiving tax subsidies from insurance marketplaces run by the federal government, effectively making those subsidies illegal in 36 states.
Opponents of the Affordable Care Act greeted the D.C. court’s initial ruling with praise, saying the judges upheld the text of the law. The law’s supporters, however, argued the court read the text too narrowly and applied an unreasonable and inaccurate interpretation of exchange subsidies.
The July ruling dealt a fresh blow to President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, which relies on the insurance subsidies to make coverage more affordable for millions of people. However, the Obama administration vowed at the time to petition for a full court review of the decision.”

“From Halbig to Sovaldi, this summer was a busy one for health policy and politics. We’ve made it easy to catch up, collecting all of the top stories you clicked on over the past few months. Together, they tell a story about the state of healthcare in the U.S., and offer clues as to where things may be headed when Congress returns in the fall.
Among them: The political battle over Obmacare has become more complicated for Republicans since the government cleaned up the Healthcare.gov mess, and with midterm elections around the corner, the focus will be on how much either party continues to attack or ignore the law. There are policy, legal and business matters to be settled as well – the employer mandate is under attack from the left and the right, the courts have been a wildcard for the health law to this point and could continue to be so, and employers and employees are finding themselves wading through the on-the-ground impacts of the law. That doesn’t even get to our top three storylines of the summer, so be sure to click through to find out what tops the list.”

“PHOENIX — The Arizona Supreme Court has agreed to hear Gov. Jan Brewer’s appeal of an appeals-court decision that could unravel the Medicaid expansion she fought for last year.
The high court has not yet set a date, but indicated it will hear Brewer’s argument that about three dozen Republican lawmakers don’t have the legal standing to challenge the controversial vote.
The court’s decision, reached in a scheduling conference, comes on the heels of Tuesday’s primary election in which every Republican lawmaker who voted to expand the state’s Medicaid program won re-election. That means it would be highly unlikely the next Legislature would vote to reverse the 2013 decision, which was a consistent fault line in numerous GOP legislative primaries.
The case revolves around whether the Legislature’s 2013 vote to impose an assessment on hospitals to help cover the cost of expanding the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment program was a tax. If so, it would require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature.”

“File this under ‘how ironic.’
Drug makers are asking for more transparency from the government agency that is requiring them to be more transparent about how much they pay doctors.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, is calling on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to further explain why the agency has removed one-third of the payment information from an online database that is due to be made public by Sept. 30.
Earlier this month, CMS said it would withhold about one-third of the payment data from the so-called “Open Payments” system. The agency also said it would return the records to drug makers because they were “intermingled,” including the erroneous linking of payment information for some doctors to still other doctors with similar names. CMS cited incorrect state medical-license numbers as one reason for the mix-up, among others.
CMS had collected partial-year 2013 payment data from the companies and began allowing doctors to go online for a preview this summer, before the database goes public by Sept. 30, in order to dispute any inaccuracies. But CMS closed the preview function for about 11 days to investigate the data intermingling and re-opened the site nearly two weeks ago. The missing one-third will be put back in the database at a later date, likely next year.”

“Planned Parenthood Action Fund released today a t-shirt designed by actress Scarlett Johansson that targets the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision.
The front of the pink t-shirt reads “Hey Politicians! The 1950s called…” and the back reads, “They want their sexism back!”
“When I heard that some politicians were cheering the Supreme Court’s decision to give bosses the right to interfere in our access to birth control, I thought I had woken up in another decade,” explained Johansson in a statement.
“Like many of my friends, I was appalled by the thought of men taking away women’s ability to make our own personal health care decisions,” she added.
Um … what?
Let’s look at some facts, beginning with that the Hobby Lobby decision was fairly narrow. As Heritage policy experts Sarah Torre and Elizabeth Slattery explained, the decision didn’t strike down the Department of Health and Human Services Obamacare mandate that forces business to provide insurance coverage for twenty abortion-inducing drugs and birth control devices. “The Court did not strike down the mandate,” write Torre and Slattery, “but said that the government cannot force these two family businesses that object to providing coverage of four potentially life-ending drugs and devices to comply with the mandate.””

“The Oregon Department of Justice jousted for nearly two months with Oracle America over the state’s demand for documents from the California software giant relating to the health exchange debacle.
In fact, Oracle flouted state law and stymied the demand, according to DOJ.
The state filed papers in federal court Friday that provide a glimpse into high-stakes jockeying that for months took place largely out of public view.
DOJ filed its federal papers shortly after the state’s lawyers sued Oracle in Marion County Circuit Court on Aug. 22.
In its federal filing, DOJ accuses Oracle of “stalling” and attempting to manipulate the legal system by filing its own federal lawsuit against Oregon on Aug. 8.”

“Those who favor women being guaranteed no-cost birth control coverage under their health insurance say the new rules for nonprofit religious organizations issued by the Obama administration simply put into force what the Supreme Court suggested last month.
A demonstrator holding up a sign outside the Supreme Court in Washington in June 2014. The Obama administration announced new measures last week to allow religious nonprofits and some companies to opt out of paying for birth control for female employees while still ensuring those employees have access to contraception. (Photo by Pablo Martinez Mosivais/AP)
“We interpret what [the administration] did to be putting into effect that order,” said Judy Waxman, vice president for health and reproductive rights at the National Women’s Law Center. She’s referring to the controversial Supreme Court order in a lower court case involving Wheaton College, a Christian school in Illinois.
The unsigned order agreed to by six of the nine justices said Wheaton College need not fill out and send to its insurance company a form opting out of offering the coverage. Instead, it could merely inform the government of its objections.
The new rules unveiled Friday require those with religious objections to providing some or all FDA-approved contraceptives to do exactly that – notify the government rather than their insurance carriers that they cannot provide the coverage. Many religious organizations had complained that filing the form to their insurance companies, which would then provide the coverage using other funds, would make them “complicit” in providing the benefit. Under the new regulations, the government would subsequently be responsible for notifying insurers, which would then arrange contraceptive coverage.”

“From Halbig to Sovaldi, this summer was a busy one for health policy and politics. We’ve made it easy to catch up, collecting all of the top stories you clicked on over the past few months. Together, they tell a story about the state of healthcare in the U.S., and offer clues as to where things may be headed when Congress returns in the fall.
Among them: The political battle over Obmacare has become more complicated for Republicans since the government cleaned up the Healthcare.gov mess, and with midterm elections around the corner, the focus will be on how much either party continues to attack or ignore the law. There are policy, legal and business matters to be settled as well – the employer mandate is under attack from the left and the right, the courts have been a wildcard for the health law to this point and could continue to be so, and employers and employees are finding themselves wading through the on-the-ground impacts of the law. That doesn’t even get to our top three storylines of the summer, so be sure to click through to find out what tops the list.”