What’s New in Health Care Reform: Feb. 8

What's New in Health Care Reform provides an overview of the past week’s news, updates, and commentary in health care reform and utilization management.

Republicans: Obamacare Repeal Starts This Spring

Two of the top Republicans in Congress they are pushing ahead with the plan to begin repealing Obamacare this spring, despite any confusion caused by President Trump saying the process could spill into next year. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) told reporters that he is working off of Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) timeline of moving repeal legislation by the end of March. Via The Hill.

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Trump Administration Weighs Obamacare Changes Sought by Insurers

The administration is looking to alter rules around insurers charging older customers more, how much cost they can shift onto customers, and who's allowed to sign up outside the standard enrollment window. They represent changes that the industry had previously asked the Obama administration to make. Via Politico.

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Obamacare Helped the Homeless, Who Now Worry about Coverage Repeal

Everyone expects Congress to change the Affordable Care Act. But no one knows exactly how. The uncertainty has one group of people especially concerned—the homeless. Many of these people received health coverage for the first time under Obamacare. They're worried it will disappear. Via NPR.

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Trump: Obamacare Replacement Might Take a Year

President Donald Trump walked back his recent vow that Obamacare would be replaced in short order, telling Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly that the process is “complicated” and “maybe it’ll take till sometime into next year.” Via Politico.

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Insurers Could Get Stronger after Obamacare—If They Survive the Transitions

Obamacare didn't kill the health insurance industry, and whatever comes after won't kill it either—as long as it can scrape through the next few years. There's been a lot of nervous talk from insurance CEOs about how they need to know what's happening next. That's a real problem, as Republicans struggle to figure out what they're actually going to do about Obamacare. But the bigger picture looks much better. Wall Street analysts are betting health insurers—who have mostly thrived under Obamacare despite their recent setbacks—will become even stronger under Donald Trump and Republicans, who plan to shred regulations and push more taxpayer-funded programs into private control. Via Axios.

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Drop in Late Obamacare Enrollment Appears to Be a Trump Effect

In the waning days of this year’s Affordable Care Act sign-up period, the Trump administration declared war on the health law, releasing an executive order that could weaken its requirements and yanking advertisements and outreach off the air. Those actions appear to have made a difference. Sign-ups for health plans in the states managed by the federal government are down slightly compared with last year. About 9.2 million Americans picked an Obamacare marketplace plan for this year, according to a government report released. Last year, that number was 9.6 million. The decline by itself isn’t that meaningful, but several snapshots over previous months had shown that sign-ups were on track to overtake last year’s enrollment. Via NY Times.

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Two Top Republicans Open to Repairing Obamacare ahead of Repeal

Two top Republicans long expected to lead the Senate’s role in repealing the Affordable Care Act said publicly this week that they are open to repairing former president Barack Obama’s landmark health-care law ahead of a wholesale repeal, which has been a GOP target for eight years. Coming one week after a closed-door strategy session in which Republicans expressed frank concerns about the political ramifications of repealing the law and the practical difficulties of doing so, statements this week by Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) brought into public view the political and policy challenges the GOP is facing. Via Washington Post.

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Employers Fear GOP Health Overhaul Could Damage Job-Based Insurance

Through years of acrimony over the relative merits of Obamacare, one kind of health insurance has remained steady, widespread and relatively affordable: Employer-sponsored plans. Job-based medical plans still cover more Americans than any other type, typically with greater benefits and lower out-of-pocket expense. Recent cost increases for this sort of coverage have been a tiny fraction of those for Obamacare plans for individuals. Via NPR.

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Health Insurers Warn of Wider Defections from ACA Marketplaces for 2018

Leaders for the health insurance industry, state insurance commissioners, and brokers warned that more health plans almost certainly will defect from Affordable Care Act marketplaces unless Congress and the Trump administration provide some concrete assurances within the next two months. Unless the government promises to continue subsidies and other features of the law for at least another year, some states probably will not have any insurers selling health plans to individuals buying coverage on their own for 2018, the witnesses warned at a Senate hearing. Via Washington Post.

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Insurers Shrink from Exchanges as Lawmakers Mull Changes

The Affordable Care Act's insurance exchanges have become too risky for major health insurers, and that's creating further doubt about coverage options consumers might have next year. Anthem CEO Joseph Swedish said his company is waiting to see whether the government makes some short-term fixes to the shaky exchanges before it decides how much it will participate next year. The Blue Cross-Blue Shield carrier is the nation's second largest insurer and sells coverage on exchanges in 14 states. Via AP.

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Andy Tofilon

Andy Tofilon is a Marketing Segment Manager at Mayo Medical Laboratories. He leads strategies for corporate communications, public relations, and new media innovations. Andy has worked at Mayo Clinic since 2003. Outside of work, Andy can be found running, hiking, snapping photos, and most importantly, spending time with his family.