Health Brief: Week in Review & What’s Ahead

Week in Review

Affordable Care Act contraceptive mandate

  • The Trump administration announced sweeping changes to the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage mandate that could cause hundreds of thousands of women to lose birth control benefits they currently receive at little to no cost. The new rule will offer an exemption to the mandate for almost all employers who cite religious or moral objections to covering contraceptive services.

ACA exchanges

  • The Senate Republicans and Democrats who are negotiating policies that would stabilize the Obamacare exchanges failed to reach a deal before the chamber adjourned for a weeklong recess. While senators have yet to find middle ground to extend insurer payments and give states more flexibility over their Obamacare markets, lead GOP negotiator Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said Democrats and Republicans are still aiming to reach an agreement.
  • President Donald Trump personally ordered Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, to reject a waiver request from officials in Republican-controlled Iowa to bolster the state’s Obamacare exchange. Supporters of the ACA say the move is further evidence of a broader administration push to undermine the 2010 law.

Children’s Health Insurance Program reauthorization

  • The House Energy and Commerce Committee voted along party lines to approve a bill that would extend funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, with Democrats objecting to GOP-proposed ways to offset the federal spending. On the other side of the Capitol, the Senate Finance Committee advanced its version of the CHIP reauthorization bill in a near-unanimous vote.
  • Senate Republicans and Democrats are working to come up with an agreement on how to finance the program before considering the measure on the Senate floor. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is lobbying his colleagues to include two measures targeting pharmaceutical companies.

Department of Health and Human Services

  • The Senate voted 57-38 to confirm Trump’s pick for deputy secretary of Health and Human Services, with seven Democrats and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) backing the nomination of Eric Hargan, a Chicago-based lawyer who served in the George W. Bush administration.
  • The U.S. Treasury Department received a personal check from now-former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price before he resigned last month. Price wrote a check for $51,887, which appears to cover the cost of his seat on private and government planes but not the cost of seats for staffers who accompanied him.

What’s Ahead

  • Health insurers across the country are increasing insurance premiums for 2018, in some cases by more than 50 percent. In approving the increases, state regulators appear to be trying to keep insurers from fleeing Obamacare amid instability on the exchanges and ongoing uncertainty in Congress over the future of the ACA.
  • Some ardent Obamacare supporters are spearheading a campaign called Get America Covered to encourage U.S. adults to buy health insurance, part of an effort to make up for at least some of the Trump administration’s funding cuts to enrollment outreach. The group, which launched with a six-figure budget, will focus on partnering with employers and community organizations, and it will also run some digital ads.

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Federal holiday — no events scheduled
No events scheduled
House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on 340B 10 a.m.
Bipartisan Policy Center event on Medicare and Social Security 10 a.m.
House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on the opioid crisis 10:15 a.m.
National MACRA MIPS/APM Summit 1 p.m.
National MACRA MIPS/APM summit 7 a.m.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce event on the opioid epidemic 8:30 a.m.
National MACRA MIPS/APM summit 7:30 a.m.

Helping those affected by the hurricanes

For those impacted by the devastation and flooding caused by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, resources are available for patients to access medicines. America’s biopharmaceutical companies are coordinating with local and federal agencies to meet medical needs in the areas impacted by the hurricanes.

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