In a strongly worded letter to the Trump administration, Oklahoma’s health commissioner recently expressed frustration that a state waiver to lower costs for Obamacare customers had not been approved as quickly as federal officials had promised.
The proposal called for a reinsurance program in which government funding pays for costly medical claims while keeping prices down for other customers. Having run out of time to make a dent in premiums, the state decided to withdraw its waiver. Health commissioner Terry Cline lamented the months that Oklahoma officials spent developing a plan, followed by six weeks of daily calls or emails with federal officials, with no results.
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Congressional Republicans have failed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, but some of them aren’t ready to stop campaigning on that promise. “I don’t see any problem with talking about repeal and replace. We still want to do it. It’s not over,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch said.
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Paul Melquist of St. Paul, Minn., has a message for the people who wrote the Affordable Care Act: “Quit wrecking my health care.”
Teri Goodrich of Raleigh, N.C., agrees. “We’re getting slammed. We didn’t budget for this,” she says.
Millions of people have gained health insurance because of the federal health law. Millions more have seen their existing coverage improved.
But one slice of the population, which includes Melquist and Goodrich, is unquestionably worse off. They are healthy people who buy their own coverage but earn too much to qualify for help paying their premiums. And the premium hikes that are being announced as enrollment looms for next year — in some states, increases topping 50 percent — will make their situations more miserable.
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Obamacare plan premiums may increase an average of 45 percent in Florida next year due to health care insurers rate hike requests, according to Florida’s Office of Insurance Regulation.
There are six insurers in Florida selling plans on and off the exchanges in 2018 including Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Celtic Insurance Company, Florida Health Care Plan, Health First Commercial Plans, Health Options, and Molina Healthcare of Florida.
Molina Healthcare requested the highest rate increase of 71.2 percent. Individuals with this coverage can expect their monthly premium to increase from $402 to $688.
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The Trump administration is poised to roll back the federal requirement for employers to include birth control coverage in their health insurance plans, vastly expanding exemptions for those that cite moral or religious objections.
The new rules, which could be issued as soon as Friday, fulfill a campaign promise by President Trump and are sure to touch off a round of lawsuits on the issue.
More than 55 million women have access to birth control without co-payments because of the contraceptive coverage mandate, according to a study commissioned by the Obama administration. Under the new regulations, hundreds of thousands of women could lose birth control benefits they now receive at no cost under the Affordable Care Act.
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Full-scale repeal of Obamacare has failed, at least for now. But there are still components of the law that can, and should, be rolled back immediately. The Independent Payment Advisory Board is a prime example.
Obamacare created the board of 15 unelected, presidentially-appointed bureaucrats to keep Medicare’s costs under control. If entitlement spending growth surpasses a specific target (currently, aggregate GDP growth plus 1 percent) the board must recommend Medicare cuts.
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Not even 24 hours after the latest “repeal and replace” proposal ran out of steam, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) ignited a new round of health policy speculation by predicting, during a cable news interview, impending Trump administration action on a longtime Republican go-to idea: association health plans.
“If [consumers] can join large groups, get protection and less expensive insurance … it will solve a lot of problems in the individual market,” Paul said last week on the MSNBC show “Morning Joe.”
Later, President Donald Trump told reporters that he would “probably be signing a very major executive order” that could affect “millions of people.”
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Republicans and Democrats are engaging in warfare over a traditionally bipartisan program to insure children.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee is marking up legislation to extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program by five years. However, Democrats have objected to the legislation because of measures to pay for the program.
“Here we are with a partisan bill that asks us to pay for coverage of children on the backs of seniors and the most vulnerable among us,” said Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo.
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It’s sort of poetic, in a sad way, that the resignation of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price on September 29 coincided so closely with the expiration of the 2017 budget resolution on September 30. Those two events signaled the end, at least for now, of Congressional Republicans’ efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare through reconciliation–that being the arcane process by which the GOP could have avoided a crippling Democratic filibuster in the Senate.
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Seeing, hearing, reading, and feeling the new grassroots ferment among progressive Americans for a single-payer health care system, my gut reaction is: I get it. As newly documented in Elizabeth Rosenthal’s book, An American Sickness,1 and the Commonwealth Fund’s report, Mirror, Mirror 2017,2 our health care system provides shockingly poor value and outcomes, and rests on a foundation of greed. It deserves fundamental change.
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