What’s New in Health Care Reform: Aug. 30

The Week in Review provides an overview of the past week’s top health care content, including industry news and trends, Mayo Clinic and Mayo Medical Laboratories news, and upcoming events.

Employer Plans Join Obamacare in Narrowing Doctor Networks for 2018

Health plans beyond just Obamacare are paring lists of doctor and hospital choices for 2018 as they struggle to contain rising medical care costs by guiding patients to quality choices, insurersm and health benefits consultancies say. Up to half of the nation’s large employers are looking at or already implementing narrow network strategies, benefits’ analysts say, even as insurers like Centene, Molina Healthcare, Oscar Health, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans introduce more narrow network plans to maintain individual coverage offered on public exchanges under the Affordable Care Act for 2018. Via Forbes.

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Congress Facing Deadline to Renew Health Care for Children

Congress is approaching a health care deadline with enormous stakes for millions of people—and this time it isn't about Obamacare. Federal funding for 9 million low- and middle-income children is set to expire at the end of September, setting up a crucial deadline for a Congress already grappling with other high-stakes battle. Via The Hill.

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Health Insurers Enter Fray in Drug Price Fight

Health insurers are pushing back against a recent report that accuses them of denying some patients coverage for medical products and procedures, alleging it is part of a campaign by the pharmaceutical industry to distract the public from rising drug prices. America’s Health Insurance Plans, the nation’s largest trade group for medical insurers, reacted quickly to a study released last week that stated that as many as 24 percent of insured patients with chronic illnesses have been denied coverage for prescribed treatments. Via Morning Consult.

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Iowa Submits Final Request to Shore up Obamacare Markets

Iowa submitted to the federal government a final request to make changes to try to shore up its struggling Obamacare insurance marketplace. The plan from the Iowa Insurance Division is intended to be a short-term market stabilization solution to entice more insurers into the marketplace. The state is facing what it calls a “collapse” of its Obamacare marketplace after all but one insurer declined to offer plans for 2018. Via The Hill.

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Health Care Organizations Ask CMS to Harmonize EHR Requirements

Health care organizations praised the CMS for proposing greater flexibility in electronic health record requirements under the Merit-based Incentive Payment System track of MACRA and asked the agency to standardize EHR requirements across incentive programs. The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, the American Hospital Association, the American Health Information Management Association and others supported CMS' proposed 2018 performance year rule's change that would allow clinicians to continue to use 2014 edition certified EHRs for another year, potentially saving them the effort of updating and installing new software. Via Modern Healthcare.

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Senate Panel Plans 2 Hearings on Girding Health Insurance

The Senate health committee will hold two hearings early next month on how the nation’s individual health insurance marketplaces can be stabilized, as party leaders grasp for a fresh path following the collapse of the Republican effort to repeal and replace much of former President Barack Obama’s health care law. Via Washington Post.

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Hospitals Are Clogged with Patients Struggling with Opioids

President Trump this month declared the opioid epidemic a national emergency, a move intended to direct more funding and attention toward the crisis. Recent research on hospitalizations related to opioid use depicts a problem of increasing urgency. According to a series of government briefs published this year, nearly 1.3 million hospitalizations involving opioids occurred in the United States in 2014. The figure includes hospitalizations for abuse of both prescription and illegal drugs, including heroin. Via NY Times.

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Republicans Face Looming Deadline on Health Law

A fast-approaching deadline for insurers to commit to selling health plans next year under the Affordable Care Act is pressuring Republican lawmakers to decide quickly whether to shore up the law and ease the path for insurers or continue efforts to roll it back. Lawmakers returning to the Capitol from recess on Sept. 5 will have only 12 legislative days to decide whether to pass a bipartisan bill aimed at bolstering the ACA’s markets before insurers must commit to participating in the law’s exchanges in 2018. At the same time, a plan from Sens. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R., La.) that would largely topple most of the ACA is gaining traction among Republicans. Via Wall Street Journal.

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New Program Aims to Keep OB/GYNs in Rural America

One innovative program at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health aims to reverse the trend by training obstetrician/gynecologists in rural areas with the goal of having them practice in the area. Via NBC News.

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Trump Set to Roll Back Obama-Era Contraception Rule

The Trump administration is poised to issue a rule unwinding an Obama-era requirement that employee health benefits include contraception, which will spark a fresh round of litigation over an issue that has been before courts for six years. Federal health officials are expected to finalize a regulation that would allow employers with religious or moral objections to birth control to omit coverage for contraception from their workers’ plans, according to two people familiar with its contents. The regulation closely mirrors an earlier, leaked draft, they said. Via Wall Street Journal.

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Andy Tofilon

Andy Tofilon is a Marketing Segment Manager at Mayo Clinic Laboratories.

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