What’s New in Health Care Reform: Sept. 20

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.

Republicans Demand Another Vote to Repeal the Affordable Care Act

Just when the effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act appeared to be dead, a last-ditch push to dismantle the law could be nearing a showdown vote in the Senate, and a handful of Republicans insist they are closing in on the votes. The effort received a jolt of energy when Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona, a Republican, strongly endorsed the latest repeal bill. That put pressure on Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, who cast the deciding vote in July that seemed to stop the repeal movement, but who has said he would seriously consider the views of his governor. Via NY Times.

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Obamacare Repeal Plan Won’t Get Full CBO Analysis by Key Deadline

If Senate Republicans vote to repeal Obamacare before the end of the month, they'll be flying blind—not knowing the impact their plan will have on insurance coverage or premium costs, budget scorekeepers said. The Congressional Budget Office will only have a bare-bones assessment of the latest GOP bill ready before Sept. 30, the deadline for Senate Republicans to pass health care legislation on a party-line vote. Via Politico.

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Another Health Funding Cliff Puts Care for Millions at Risk

There’s another health deadline at the end of the month that has nothing to do with Obamacare—but which puts millions of the nation’s most vulnerable patients at risk. Billions of federal dollars for community health centers, which provide care for some 26 million patients, is on the line with a September 30 funding deadline looming. Via The Hill.

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Get Ready! Medicare Will Mail New Cards to 60 Million People

It's an administrative task for the ages. Medicare is getting ready to issue all 60 million of its beneficiaries new cards with new ID numbers as way to combat identity theft and fraud. The rollout begins next April, but the agency is already beginning its outreach campaign. Via NPR.

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Without Price Breaks, Rural Hospitals Struggle to Stock Costly, Lifesaving Drugs

Rural hospitals have long wanted to be part of the so-called 340B program, too, but were blocked from participating until the Affordable Care Act of 2010. That historic health law added rural hospitals to the overall program. But, unlike bigger hospitals, rural hospitals can’t get discounts on expensive drugs that treat rare diseases because of a last-minute exclusion written into the ACA. That seemingly minor detail in the law has left rural hospital pharmacists and health care workers struggling to keep medicines in stock, and wondering if they will be able to adequately care for patients. Via Kaiser Health News.

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House Committee Passes Bill to Build Telehealth Coverage into Medicare Advantage Plans

A bipartisan bill that would make telehealth services a core benefit in Medicare Advantage plans drew broad support from lawmakers on its way to unanimously passing through the House Committee on Ways and Means. Via FierceHealthcare.

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Trump Is Making Obamacare Premiums More Expensive 

The Trump administration’s management of Obamacare is causing higher premiums and lower enrollment in the individual market, a new report from the Congressional Budget Office finds. The nonpartisan office estimates that average premiums in the health law marketplaces will be 15% higher next year “largely because of short-term market uncertainty—in particular, insurers’ uncertainty about whether federal funding for certain subsidies that are currently available will continue to be provided.” Via Vox.

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HHS Slashes Funding to Groups Helping ACA Consumers Enroll by up to 92%

Health and Human Services officials have informed grass-roots groups that assist with enrollment under the Affordable Care Act that their funding will be reduced by as much as 92%, a move that could upend outreach efforts across the country. Via Washington Post.

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Uninsured Rate in Minnesota Drops to 4.1%

The percentage of Minnesotans without health insurance in 2016 dropped to 4.1%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest annual report on the nation’s uninsured population.The state’s uninsured rate is less than half of the national uninsured rate of 8.8% last year, the agency said in its Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2016 report. Some 225,000 state residents were without health benefits in 2016, the report said, compared with 245,000 a year earlier, when 4.5% of Minnesotans were uninsured. The state has cut its uninsured rate by half since 2013, when 8.2%, or 440,000, people here were without health care coverage. Via Twin Cities Business.

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How the Trump Administration Is Reshaping Health Care—without Congress

While Congress tussles over Obamacare, the Trump administration is quietly pressing ahead with plans to gut major Obama-era rules and relax federal oversight of swaths of the health care industry. Top health officials have already signaled their intention to end mandatory programs making hospitals more accountable for their patients’ health, slowed the transition to a system that pays doctors based on quality rather than quantity, and indicated they will reverse a high-profile rule blocking nursing homes from forcing residents to sign away their right to sue. Via Politico.

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Andy Tofilon

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

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