2018 MIDTERM ELECTION

Time: D H M S

Trumpcare

 

UPDATE 4:30PM: SCROLL DOWN FOR THE ANALYSIS OF THE CBO SCORE.

Yes, this is it, kids...the Big Day all healthcare wonks have been waiting for: The Congressional Budget Office is releasing their score of the final version of the AHCA (that is to say, the version which was actually voted on and passed by a whisker 3 weeks ago) later on today.

Remember, Paul Ryan and the House GOP insisted on ramming the vote through before the CBO score came out, which means that due to the way Congressional budget rules work, depending on how much the CBO think the final changes to the bill impact the budget, they may have to go back and make more changes which would require another vote in the House...and that's all before it moves onto the Senate, where the GOP Senators have already said they plan on starting from scratch anyway. Fun times!

UPDATE 5/19/17: I'm dusting this off again because it looks like (shocker) Trump has changed his mind again regarding whether or not he'll have HHS continue making CSR payments or not. According to Politico:

Trump said to favor move that could destabilize Obamacare

President Donald Trump has told advisers he wants to end payments of key Obamacare subsidies, a move that could send the health law's insurance markets into a tailspin, according to several sources familiar with the conversations.

Many advisers oppose the move because they worry it will backfire politically if people lose their insurance or see huge premium spikes and blame the White House, the sources said. Trump has said that the bold move could force Congressional Democrats to the table to negotiate an Obamacare replacement.

Lawyers and other administration officials are trying to thread the needle.

(this is Part Two of my analysis of the CBO score of AHCA 2.0 (the version which actually passed the House 3 weeks ago). Part One is here.

OK, digging into the PDF itself, let's see what else there is of interest... (this is a blog post in progress...check back for frequent updates...)

Here's a list of what HASN'T changed from the "1.0" version of the AHCA:

In this cost estimate, as in the preceding estimates, the budgetary effects related to health insurance coverage would stem primarily from the following provisions:

  • Reducing the federal matching rate for adults made eligible for Medicaid by the ACA to equal the rate for other enrollees in the state, beginning in 2020.

Goodbye 90% Federal funding! States would have to pony up anywhere from 25-50% of the funding if they wanted to keep those folks covered.

via Bob Herman of Axios:

Health Care Service Corp. — the parent company of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield affiliates in Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas — recorded an $869 million profit in the first quarter of 2017, according to the company's latest financial documents. That was a $1.3 billion turnaround after HCSC lost $442 million in the first quarter of 2016.

How to interpret this: The Affordable Care Act exchanges in some areas are hurting, but overall are not imploding. Many insurance companies continue to do well (like Florida Blue) or are turning things around (like HCSC). And HCSC carries a lot of weight, since it covers nearly 1.1 million people in ACA plans and is the largest Blue Cross and Blue Shield company after Anthem.

Something to consider:

Note: Given the time constraint--today is the deadline for submitting a letter--I've stolen some of the following from Andrew Sprung:

Topher Spiro of the Center for American Progress acquired a letter from Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch to healthcare "stakeholders," inviting their input by May 23 on Republican senators' efforts to write an ACA repeal bill. Hatch asked that letters be sent to HealthReform@Finance.Senate.gov.

Since the Republican senators' bill-writing process is as secretive and rushed as the House's, Spiro seized the opportunity to encourage non-privileged "stakeholders" -- all of us -- to send their two cents to the email address provided. He has offered to tweet any letters tweeted at him, with a screenshot.

Here's mine:

Dear Members of the Senate Finance Committee:

via Kayla Tausche of CNBC:

The House of Representatives and Department of Justice plan to ask the DC federal appeals court to keep on hold for another 90 days a lawsuit that questions the legality of cost-sharing subsidies in the Affordable Care Act, according to four people familiar with the matter.

The White House, during that time, will continue to make payments to insurers, according to a senior administration official.

OK, assuming they do indeed ask for this, and assuming the court grants a third 90-day extension, this means that CSR reimbursement payments can continue for another 3 months. That's the good news.

Insurers planning to offer plans on the exchanges in 2018 must submit their pricing in the coming days and weeks.

This is the actual headline of an actual article posted on Breitbart.com right now:

I'm loathe to link to the article itself (I did include one somewhere on this page, feel free to look for it), but a Google search will bring it up. Even more remarkably for Breitbart, much of it is actually pretty darned accurate:

Obamacare will go into a death spiral on May 22 if the Trump administration chooses not to continue fighting in court to preserve cost-premium subsidies that were ruled illegal last year.

On May 12, 2016, U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary M. Collyer ruled House v. Burwell that the Obama Administration’s payment of cost-sharing subsidies without congressional approval was a violation of the Constitution’s Appropriations Clause.

 

About 5 weeks ago I noted that organizations representing pretty much the entire healthcare industry sent urgent letters to Donald Trump, HHS Secretary Tom Price, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, OMB Director Mick Mulveney and current CMS Administrator Seema Verma...basically, every major healthcare-related administration figure...practically begging them to fund the goddamned Cost Sharing Reduction reimbursements.

They made it crystal clear how vitally important doing this was, and Trump grudgingly went ahead and made the April payment, then later indicated that he was "probably" going to keep reimbursing carriers for the CSR funds legally owed to them on an ongoing basis, at least until the House vs. Price (formerly House vs. Burwell) lawsuit appeal process was completed.

Over at the L.A. Times, Noam Levey has a fantastic story which underscores everything I've been shouting from the rooftops for months now regarding Trump/GOP sabotage of the ACA exchanges, through both active and passive measures:

Health insurers and state officials say Trump is undermining Obamacare, pushing up rates

Health insurers across the country are making plans to dramatically raise Obamacare premiums or exit marketplaces amid growing exasperation with the Trump administration’s erratic management, inconsistent guidance and seeming lack of understanding of basic healthcare issues.

At the same time, state insurance regulators — both Democrat and Republican — have increasingly concluded they cannot count on the Trump administration to help them ensure that consumers will have access to a health plan next year.

As noted in my last post, it turns out that if the CBO score of the final version of the AHCA (that is, the one which passed two weeks ago) doesn't project the law to save at least $2 billion over a 10 year period, the House Republicans would have to start over again from scratch and re-vote on yet another version of their bill.

Now, the good news for them is that the CBO projected the prior version to save $150.3 billion over that period, so they have $148.3 billion worth of wiggle room, right? What are the odds of the CBO's new projection assuming that the passed version would eat up that much more money?

The key is does CBO assume lots of states waive benefits/community rating, and lots of healthy people use tax credits for skimpy insurance. https://t.co/vLx28MT5Bv

— Larry Levitt (@larry_levitt) May 18, 2017

Here's what Levitt is talking about:

 

Hey, remember this?

Cases upon cases of beer just rolled into the Capitol on a cart covered in a sheet. Spotted Bud Light peeking out from the sheet

— Alexandra Jaffe (@ajjaffe) May 4, 2017

Yeah, well, about that...

via Billy House of Bloomberg News:

House May Be Forced to Vote Again on GOP's Obamacare Repeal Bill

House Republicans barely managed to pass their Obamacare repeal bill earlier this month, and they now face the possibility of having to vote again on their controversial health measure.

This Axios piece by Caitlin Owens is extremely short...a mere 139 words in all...so sticking with a "fair use" quote is tricky, but I'll do my best:

Senate Finance Committee chairman Orrin Hatch says he could support delaying the repeal of the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate for a while, or even indefinitely, as a way to stabilize the marketplaces. "I wouldn't mind" postponing the repeal until after 2020, he told reporters this afternoon. "It all comes down to budgetary concerns and how it's going to be written." And he didn't rule out keeping it even longer:

"I'd like to not have it at all, but you know, it all comes down to, what's the art of the doable?"

Think about this for a moment.

A few days ago, CMS announced that they're retooling the ACA's SHOP program (at least on the federal exchange) so that instead of small businesses using HealthCare.Gov for eligibility verification, enrollment and payments, going forward it will only be used for verification, with the businesses then being kicked over to the actual insurance carrier website in order to actually enroll in the policies and make payments.

Although the Trump Administration and HHS Secretary Tom Price are hell bent on killing off the ACA altogether, this move didn't bother me for several reasons. For one thing, the SHOP program has always been kind of a dud anyway, with only around 230,000 people being enrolled in it nationally. For another, a business signing up their employees for coverage is a very different animal from an individual signing their family up for a policy. Finally, for several reasons, SHOP enrollment across the dozen or so state-based exchanges is actually higher than it is across the 3 dozen states covered by HC.gov, and the state-based exchanges aren't impacted by this policy anyway.

Julie McPeak is the Tennessee Insurance Commissioner. She was appointed by a Republican Governor, Bill Haslam, and while the position itself appears to be nonpartisan, I've found several links indicating that yes, she's a Republican herself. This is hardly surprising in Tennessee, of course, and there's nothing wrong with it...but it's noteworthy given that Tennessee is among the 19 states which has been fairly hostile towards the ACA in general over the years (no state exchange, no Medicaid expansion, total GOP control and so forth).

I've noted repeatedly that while every year brings some amount of premium rate hikes and/or carriers dropping out of the exchanges (or off the entire individual market), there's a major new factor impacting both this time around: The Trump/GOP Sabotage/Uncertainty Factor. This includes, but isn't limited to:

  • Total U.S. Population as of 2009: Around 306 million people
  • Total # of Mothers in U.S. as of 2009: Around 85.4 million
  • Assuming this ratio hasn't shifted much over the past 8 years, around 28% of the total U.S. population are mothers,

Of course, women over 64 (mostly on Medicare) are much more likely than the general population to be mothers...but girls under 18 are far less likely to be (well...under 16, anyway...the birth rate varies from state to state, of course), so I'm assuming that these cancel each other out, resulting in that 28% rate being roughly accurate.

If so, this means that out of the estimated 24 million people who would lose their healthcare coverage if GOP's "American Health Care Act" were to be signed into law, roughly 6.7 million would likely be moms.

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