Fit to Print. News update 6/7/2016.

EHCI News

Leading the News

Simplified Outreach Materials Expected To Increase Enrollment Of Dual Eligibles, But Advocates Disagree.

Modern Healthcare  (6/3, Dickson, Subscription Publication) reported that states taking part in a pilot program which seeks to lower costs and improve care “for residents dually eligible for Medicaid and Medicare have a new tool to enroll a historically elusive population.” Patients are expected to benefit from simplified outreach materials that “will boil down the complexities of coverage offered by demonstrations.” Yet, “patient advocacy groups say the materials are too technical and confusing, leading to a high opt-out rate,” and data show only 361,000 dual eligibles in 10 states had enrolled as of May, even though some 1.3 million beneficiaries can participate in the program.

People With Health Insurance Can Also Incur Large Costs From Covered Hospital Visits.

The Washington Post  (6/6, Guo) “Wonkblog” reports people without health insurance can easily rack up large medical bills from a hospital visit that can go unpaid for years, but people with health insurance can also incur financial losses even if their insurance covers the medical costs of the visit if they work less or lose their jobs because of a change in their health. The article highlights multiple studies researching the costs of hospital visits for people with and without health insurance and who ends up paying the costs.

Legislation and Policy

Wyoming Candidates For US House Say ACA Should Be Repealed.

The Wyoming Tribune Eagle  (6/3, Orr) reported that during a debate involving three candidates who want to represent Wyoming in the US House of Representatives, all three strongly criticized the Affordable Care Act. One said repealing the ACA is “absolutely realistic and I think it’s absolutely necessary,” while another stated, “To see how bad Obamacare has been for the state of Wyoming, you just have to look at the number of uninsured. ... It’s more now than when the bill was passed.”

Most Insurers On Colorado’s ACA Exchange Seeking Double-Digit Hikes.

The Denver Post  (6/6, Simpson) reports premiums for individual plans sold through Connect for Health Colorado, the state’s ACA exchange, could rise “significantly” in 2017. Requested increases ranged from “a 40.6 percent hike by Golden Rule, 36.3 percent by Colorado Choice, 34.6 percent by Rocky Mountain HMO and 26.8 percent by Anthem.” Denver Health had the lowest increase of 0.08 percent.

The Washington Times  (6/6, Richardson) reports that four of the largest insurers on Colorado’s ACA exchange are scaling back offerings or exiting the marketplace, while several others are seeking high premium increases. Insurance commissioner Marguerite Salazar explained that “the upheaval” is “part of the ‘stabilization phase’ as the state exchange, Connect for Health Colorado, enters its fourth enrollment year.” The Times says the news from insurers “came as a devastating blow to the state’s already-shaky insurance market.”

The Denver Business Journal  (6/6, Sealover, Subscription Publication) and The Daily Caller  (6/6, Phippen) also have coverage.

Four Insurers Scaling Back Plans Or Leaving Colorado’s ACA Exchange.

The Washington Times  (6/6, Richardson) reports that four of the largest insurers on Colorado’s ACA exchange – Anthem, UnitedHealthCare, Humana and Rocky Mountain Health Plans – are scaling back offerings or exiting the marketplace, while several others are seeking high premium increases. Insurance commissioner Marguerite Salazar explained that “the upheaval” is “part of the ‘stabilization phase’ as the state exchange, Connect for Health Colorado, enters its fourth enrollment year.” The Times says the news from insurers “came as a devastating blow to the state’s already-shaky insurance market.”

Public Health and Private Healthcare Systems

Alaska House Lawmakers Insist They Have Authority To Appeal Ruling On Medicaid Expansion.

Alaska Dispatch News  (6/5, Hanlon) reports attorneys hired by lawmakers in Alaska’s House “to sue Gov. Bill Walker over Medicaid expansion said in a court filing last week that the Alaska House can properly take over the appeal of a case originally brought by the Alaska Legislative Council even though no legislative body has voted to approve the move.” But John Coghill, R-North Pole, a Senate leader who was in favor of the original lawsuit, said “he didn’t think the House could insert itself into the already-existing contracts between the two hired law firms and the 14-member Alaska Legislative Council, a committee of House and Senate lawmakers that meets year-round and that voted to sue Walker.”

Advocates Urging California To Further Expand Medicaid.

Modern Healthcare  (6/4, Kutscher, Subscription Publication) reported that according to many measures, California’s Medicaid expansion has been successful. For instance, data show more than one-third of Californians are now covered by Medicaid, and the number of uninsured in the state dropped to 11 percent in 2014, which represents a decline of 16 percent compared to 2013. In spite of this, some healthcare advocates are urging the state to further expand Medicaid and “offer health benefits to low-income residents regardless of immigration status.”

Two Reports Offer Differing Views Of Impact Of Colorado’s Medicaid Expansion.

Colorado Public Radio  (6/3, Dukakis) says two new reports offering differing views of the impact of Medicaid expansion in Colorado. One “concluded that Medicaid’s growth was larger and costlier than expected.” The other found that expanded Medicaid “has created more than 31,000 jobs, increased economic activity by $3.8 billion and raised yearly household earnings by more than $600.”

Analysis Raises Concern About State Medicaid Spending Following Expansion Under The ACA.

The Palmetto (SC) Business Daily  (6/6) reports an analysis conducted by the Mercatus Center at Georgetown University concluded that while “the federal government picks up the entire tab for Medicaid expansion, the Obamacare program appears to crowd out state spending on infrastructure.” This problem could be exacerbated as states such as “South Carolina, which are working to find ways to make necessary investments in infrastructure, face greater Medicaid liabilities beginning next year.” The authors said states should be concerned about Medicaid costs, because the ones which have expanded Medicaid are spending more on it, to the detriment of priorities.

Uninsured

Medicaid Expansion Reduced Number Of Uninsured Ex-Inmates, But Drug-Treatment Rates Remained Unchanged.

Kaiser Health News  (6/6, Hancock) reports a new study conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that the percentage “of released prisoners with addiction problems who lacked medical insurance fell sharply after the health law’s Medicaid expansion took effect, but drug-treatment rates for ex-offenders barely budged.” Data show about 28 percent of former inmates with drug-use disorders lacked health coverage in 2014, compared to 38 percent in prior years. But, drug-treatment rates for former inmates remained largely unchanged at about 30 percent.

Senior Market News

Family Caregivers Considered Indispensable As America’s Elderly Population Increases.

The Wall Street Journal  (6/3, Levitz, Subscription Publication) reported that advocates and lawmakers are seeking more ways to help millions of unpaid family members who allow many elderly Americans to age in place and reduce the strain on programs such as Medicaid. Kathy Greenlee, assistant secretary for aging at HHS, said, “Families have always been the backbone of our system for caring for people. ... Really, if we didn’t have them, we couldn’t afford as a country to monetize their care and we couldn’t replace, frankly, the love they provide to family members.” AARP estimates some 40 million caregivers in the US provided $470 billion worth of unpaid care to adults with illnesses in 2013.

Seniors Increasingly Turning To Cohousing.

The Philadelphia Inquirer  (6/5, Arvedlund) reports seniors increasingly want to age together with friends so cohousing is gaining popularity among the demographic. The article reports cohousing is on the rise “as housing prices recover nationwide and assisted-living options price out some senior citizens.”

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