The Trump administration rejected on Thursday Idaho’s plan to allow the sale of stripped-down, low-cost health insurance violates the ACA. The 2010 statute “remains the law, and we have a duty to enforce and uphold the law,” Seema Verma, the administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said in a letter to the governor of Idaho, C.L. Otter. While rejecting Idaho’s plan in its current form, Ms. Verma encouraged the state to keep trying, and she suggested that, “with certain modifications,” its proposal might be acceptable.

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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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Congress reportedly is contemplating appropriating more federal funding to prop up the Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as Obamacare) and its harmful policy regulations. The radical and unnecessary changes in insurance regulations made by the ACA created much bigger problems in the insurance market that upended existing federal and state regulation of health insurance, destabilized the individual health insurance market, and resulted in higher costs and fewer choices. Ultimately, Congress can help Americans who are suffering from higher costs and premiums by resuming efforts to address the cause of this suffering by repealing and replacing Obamacare itself. Instead of a bailout, a good place to start would be to give states the flexibility to stabilize their markets.
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A state Senate panel Monday backed legislation that requires New Jerseyans to buy insurance or pay a fee — a mandate the Trump administration will end in 2019.

The move is a step toward protecting the health insurance marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

The federal landmark health care law requires individuals to buy a policy if they do not have one or face a fine at tax time. The law was meant to ensure younger and healthier people who might otherwise forgo insurance will participate in the insurance market and share costs.

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In 1981, Congress created the home and community-based (HCBS) waiver program. These waivers allow states, if they choose, to extend home- and community-based Medicaid services to individuals who would otherwise qualify for care in a nursing home or institution. Essentially, these waivers allow truly needy individuals on Medicaid to receive additional care they need without being institutionalized.

The waiver programs are comprised of individuals with severe intellectual disabilities, traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and mental illnesses, among other debilitating conditions.

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Arkansas on Monday became the third U.S. state to require that Medicaid recipients work or participate in employment activities as a condition of receiving health insurance as the Trump administration continues to approve state requests that fundamentally change the 50-year-old program.

Arkansas’s waiver would require beneficiaries to work or participate in job training or job search activities for at least 80 hours per month as a condition of receiving Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor and disabled. Those who fail to meet the requirements for three months of a plan year will not be able to re-enroll until the following plan year.

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A federal appeals court is raising a potential hurdle to the settlement of a suit the House of Representatives brought against the Obama administration over billions of dollars in subsidies paid to insurers under Obamacare.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order Monday questioning a deal the House, the Trump administration and liberal states announced last September to try to shut down the case.

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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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The seismic effects of the Affordable Care Act on insurance markets continue to be felt nearly eight years after its enactment. Premiums for individual coverage more than doubled between 2013 and 2017. Much of that increase resulted from Obamacare’s new regulations. Some regulations-such as essential health benefits and actuarial value requirements-had discrete effects on premiums. A cluster of regulations prohibiting medical underwriting, requiring the issuance of coverage, and banning pre-existing condition exclusions under any circumstances collectively had the largest effect on premiums. Additional provisions of the ACA, such as those that induced costly enrollees with other coverage options to migrate to the subsidized individual market, also drove up premiums. The Trump Administration has taken some steps to help mitigate these challenges, but legislative action is the most effective approach. The Graham-Cassidy proposal offers a starting point for policymakers seeking to address these issues, by providing a conceptual framework for empowering states to repair or ameliorate much of the market dislocation resulting from Obamacare.
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