In a bid to expand access to affordable healthcare coverage, the Trump administration early Thursday rolled out proposed rules that would allow more small businesses and self-employed workers to band together to buy insurance.

The rule is part of the administration’s objective to encourage competition in the health insurance markets and lower the cost of coverage. But some experts say expanding access to these “association health plans,” which aren’t subject to many of the same regulations and consumer protections as other health plans sold under the Affordable Care Act, could weaken the individual health insurance market.

Mississippi has received the first-ever 10-year extension of a Medicaid Section 1115 demonstration waiver, allowing the state to continue providing family planning services for people with income of up to 194% of the federal poverty level.

The CMS said the 10-year extension is part of the agency’s effort to give states greater flexibility in running their Medicaid programs, without having to ask the government for frequent approvals. Up to now, the agency typically granted Section 1115 waivers, which are supposed to be budget-neutral for the federal government, for five-year periods.

. . .

Whether it was bracing for a possible repeal of Obamacare or pondering an ambitious single-payer program that would overhaul how California provided medical care to its residents, the issue of healthcare kept politicians and policy wonks busy in 2017.

That’s not likely to let up in 2018.

. . .

Republicans are under renewed pressure to shore up the fragile US healthcare system after they knocked out a pillar of Obamacare in landmark tax legislation, but did not attempt to stabilise it. Party leaders differ over whether to make healthcare a signature issue, stung by their failure to repeal Barack Obama’s reforms entirely in the summer. But the tax bill has made it harder for Congress to do nothing in the coming election year, say experts.

. . .

As President Donald Trump completes his first year in office, Americans are increasingly concerned about health care, and their faith that government can fix it has fallen.

A new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that 48 percent named health care as a top problem for the government to focus on in the next year, up 17 points in the last two years.

The poll allows Americans to name up to five priorities and found a wide range of top concerns, including taxes, immigration and the environment. But aside from health care, no single issue was named by more than 31 percent.

. . .

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Friday encouraged two key senators to continue working on legislation to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

McConnell encouraged Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) to keep working to cobble together enough votes to pass their ObamaCare repeal legislation.

“I wish them well,” McConnell said and added that if the senators can get the votes next year, he’d encourage the Senate to vote on the bill.

. . .

Washington continues to debate health policy as if the number of people covered by government insurance programs is the key measurement of success. This week brought more evidence that the ObamaCare experiment of signing up millions more people for subsidized coverage has not made Americans healthier.

“Life expectancy in the United States fell for the second year in a row in 2016,” NBC News reports this week. The network quotes the government’s National Center for Health Statistics:

“This was the first time life expectancy in the U.S. has declined two years in a row since declines in 1962 and 1963,” the NCHS, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a statement.

. . .

California’s “Medi-Cal” program is one of the worst offenders when it comes to controlling costs.  It’s getting worse not better.  In fact, Medi-Cal is such a big spender it begs the question what is driving out of control spending in the Golden State – waste, fraud, abuse, incompetence, or all of the above?  Every taxpayer in America should be asking these questions, as we are all footing the majority of the bill.

Over the past ten years, Medicaid spending in California has almost tripled, growing from $37 billion per year to a whopping $103 billion per year—including both state and federal funding. And things have only accelerated since the state expanded Medicaid to a new group of able-bodied adults.

. . .

The GOP’s new tax bill, which passed Congress on Wednesday afternoon after one last vote in the House of Representatives and will be signed by President Donald Trump, is also a health care bill. The tax bill does at least as much (if not more) to upend Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, than even all of the Trump administration’s thousand cuts to the health law over the past year by repealing the individual mandate. Which raises the question: Just what is the Obamacare individual mandate? And what does its repeal mean for Americans?

. . .

When the authors of the Affordable Care Act promised to “bend the cost curve” in health care, it was typical Washington doublespeak. Voters likely heard those words as a promise that costs would go down, but the intended meaning was merely that they would rise more slowly than before.

Yet even by that meager standard, ObamaCare is a failure. Costs are rising faster than before, and there’s no real prospect of a reversal. The key provisions of the law that were supposed to produce savings and efficiencies either haven’t worked or will never be implemented.

. . .