The tagline for ACASignups.net is "healthcare policy data, analysis & snark", so naturally many of my blog posts have tongue-in-cheek, sarcastic headlines.

This is not one of those times. The headline above is absolutely, sickeningly true.

On a couple of days ago, both houses of the Ohio state legislature--the House and Senate alike--voted to ban abortion outright six weeks after conception. There's no exception for rape. There's no exception for incest. There is an exception for the life of the mother (not her health, mind you...just her actual ability to keep breathing)...but that's it. Yesterday this bill was signed into law by GOP Governor Mike DeWine.

The six-week abortion ban known as the "heartbeat bill" is now law in Ohio. That makes Ohio the sixth state in the nation to attempt to outlaw abortions at the point a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

I'm lumping together three Tennessee-based stories here from the past month or so, but they're perfectly connected to each other:

March 7th, 2019:

The Tennessee House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday that would ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, mimicking laws in other states that have been struck down by the courts and drawing the criticism of both advocates and opponents of abortion rights.

The measure, House Bill 77, would tightly restrict the window of time within which a woman could seek an abortion, because a fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. That is before many women even realize they are pregnant.

 

Over the past month or two, I've written a couple of pieces which explored the whole "MFA would eliminate private health insurance" issue.

My main point was that while most MFA activists have long insisted that eliminating (or virtually eliminating) private health insurance companies is not only a feature but the entire point of moving to single payer, ever since Kamala Harris walked back her “get rid of all that!” comment in a CNN Town Hall the next day, I’ve seen some MFA activists fall all over themselves to suddenly insist that “no, no...there’d still be plenty of room for private insurance, really!”

From last August:

The #TexasFoldEm case uses the World's Flimsiest Excuse to try and eliminate the Affordable Care Act's critical health insurance coverage protections for the 130 million Americans who have pre-existing conditions.

In response, Republican Senators Tillis, Alexander, Grassley, Ernst, Murkowski, Cassidy, Wicker, Graham, Heller and Barrasso have introduced a new bill which they claim would ensure pre-existing coverage protections. Unfortunately, it...doesn't.

I've been out and about all day and will also be unable to update the blog all day Saturday, so I'll keep this one short. Besides, several others, including Jeffrey Young of the Huffington Post have already written up good overviews of this garbage:

A week or so ago there was an important ruling by a federal judge which shot down Medicaid expansion work requirements in two states (Arkansas and Kentucky) while also having a ripple effect in two more (Idaho and Iowa):

The [Idaho] Senate Health and Welfare Committee voted 7-2 to hold in committee a House bill that would create a work requirement for Medicaid expansion beneficiaries — after lawmakers found out during the hearing that a federal judge had just struck down Medicaid work requirements in Kentucky and Arkansas.

Meanwhile, a Senate bill that would create a voluntary job training requirement for Medicaid expansion beneficiaries is still in that chamber’s amending order and could come up soon. The Medicaid budget for 2019-2020 is still being held in the full House. And Gov. Brad Little has said he won’t let lawmakers adjourn for the year until Medicaid expansion and funding is resolved.

This Just In from the Washington State Insurance Commissioner's office...

Kreidler's bill to protect consumers from surprise billing passes Senate
April 10, 2019

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler’s proposal to end the harmful practice of surprise medical billing passed the Senate today on a vote of 47 to 0. It now goes back to the House of Representatives for a concurrence vote before heading to the governor’s desk.

Second Substitute House Bill 1065 (www.leg.wa.gov) prevents consumers from getting a surprise bill when they seek either emergency treatment at an out-of-network emergency room or medical services at an in-network hospital or facility but are treated by an out-of-network provider.

In September 2017, Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced his "official" Medicare for All, universal single payer bill to much fanfare. At the time, it garnered a lot of attention, but it also had some gaping holes...most notably the lack of any actual funding mechanism or specifics, as well as a big coverage gap which could be found in both the "Medicare for America" bill which I'm a big fan of as well as the House MFA version.

Today, Sanders launched a revised version of the bill which supposedly addresses both of those issues along with others. Let's take a look.

First of all, who's co-sponsoring it? In 2017, it was cosponsored by 16 Democratic Senators:

Mr. Sanders (for himself, Ms. Baldwin, Mr. Blumenthal, Mr. Booker, Mr. Franken, Mrs. Gillibrand, Ms. Harris, Mr. Heinrich, Ms. Hirono, Mr. Leahy, Mr. Markey, Mr. Merkley, Mr.Schatz, Mrs. Shaheen, Mr. Udall, Ms. Warren, and Mr. Whitehouse) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Finance

 

Sorry, I'm a little behind the 8-ball today...a few hours ago, the House Education & Labor Committee voted on and approved H.R.1010, which would reverse the Trump Administration's executive order which removed restrictions placed on so-called "short-term, limited duration" (STLD) healthcare policies, commonly known as "junk plans" since most ACA regulations/requirements don't apply.

Again, the short version (no pun intended) is this: Under the Obama Administration, STLDs were restricted to no more than 3 months at a time, and forbid them from being renewed within the same calendar year. They were always intended to be just that: Short-term only, and of limited duration, for certain people in special circumstances only.

h/t to Rachel Schwab for the heads up!

A couple of weeks ago I reported that the Colorado legislature was moving on an ACA reinsurance bill which, on the surface would seem to be similar to other reinsurance programs implemented in over a half-dozen other states to cut down on individual market premiums. The Colorado bill, however, had an unusual funding mechanism:

While similar programs have gone into effect in a number of states, Colorado’s funding mechanism for reinsurance would be an innovative approach. This mechanism utilizes Medicare reference-based pricing to bring down health care costs (what is paid to hospitals and doctors). Medicare-reference-based pricing means that the hospitals, doctors and other healthcare providers would be paid a percentage of what Medicare would pay. For example, the program may pay 150 percent (or 1.5 times) of what Medicare would pay for services, which would be less than what is currently paid to healthcare providers. That savings is then passed on to consumers in the form of lower premiums.

via the Hopping Mad podcast:

8 April 2018 – We have hopped and moved the show we planned to have this week back to next week in order to have the ACA expert, Charles Gaba (ACASignups.net, @Charles_Gaba) on to update everyone on the latest chaos surrounding the ACA.

Because of the recent ruling by a Federal judge in the Northern District of Texas, the ACA is back on uncertain ground. No one is surprised. Trump is swerving all over the place first into the total, immediate destruction of the ACA and then veering back to say that his incredible new plan will come out right after he is re-elected. Even McConnell isn’t humoring Trump this time, which should be your first clue. But don’t worry, “preexisting conditions will be covered.” Of course, insurance companies will be able to charge whatever they feel like in order to issue the coverage but Trump is positive that will work for everyone. Well, at least all the billionaires. The rest of us can just use the hospital emergency room, right?

Meet the Press a few hours ago:

CHUCK TODD: Let me move to health care because to me, it's an even more trickier situation, given that you won re-election I believe, excuse me, you won election in Utah on the same ballot that a majority of -- of your constituents wanted to see Medicaid expanded. So what would you do now with health care? Would you scrap the system we have and build from scratch? Or do you take the Obamacare infrastructure, which many will note was modeled in some ways off of what you did in Massachusetts, and try to reform from there?

Arthur Childs, DO, FACOI is an internist specializing in critical care medicine in Cape May Court House*, New Jersey. About a year ago, as part of a project for the Jefferson School of Population Health, he put together his own Strategic Roadmap for Healthcare Delivery in the United States as a potential alternative to the various universal coverage proposals being tossed around on the left side of the aisle these days. He asked me to read it over and wanted my feedback.

I've done so, and while I'm still a strong proponent of going the Medicare for America route, he makes a lot of useful points and provides much food for thought. It's also very well-researched and cited, and I felt it deserved a wider audience. And so, with the permission of both him and the Jefferson School of Population Health, I'm presenting his full paper with a few of my own thoughts interspersed.

*(yes, that's the actual name of the municipality)

Back in January I reported that the state of Colorado is joining several other states in cracking down on non-ACA compliant so-called "Short-Term, Limited Duration" healthcare policies. As of April 1st, STLDs:

  • Can last no longer than 6 months/year (still longer than the 3-mo limit under Obama)
  • Have to stick to the ACA's 3:1 age band limit on premiums
  • Must be guaranteed issue (no more medical underwriting)
  • They can still exclude coverage of pre-existing conditions, but there's a limit of 12 months on the lookback timeframe
  • Must cover all 10 of the ACA's Essential Health Benefits
  • Must follow other ACA community rating requirements (limiting variances to age, tobacco use and geographic area)
  • A minimum Medical Loss Ratio of 80% to match the ACA's MLR (currently CO only requires a 60% MLF)

In other words, Colorado just made STLDs follow most of the same rules as ACA-compliant policies.

Governor Mills Announces Federal Approval of Medicaid Expansion

Governor Janet Mills announced today that the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has approved Maine’s State Plan Amendments to expand Medicaid (MaineCare) under the Affordable Care Act. CMS notified the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) of the approval today.

CMS approved the state’s plan retroactive to July 2, 2018, which was the date indicated in the 2017 ballot initiative supported by nearly 60 percent of Maine voters. MaineCare expansion is projected to provide coverage to approximately 70,000 people throughout the state. With today’s approval, the federal government will finance more than $800 million in estimated costs for those who enroll under expansion from July 2, 2018 through state fiscal year 2021. Maine is among 36 states plus the District of Columbia that have expanded Medicaid.

Last week I noted that the House Energy & Commerce Committee held all-day hearings a dozen healthcare-related bills, half of which are related to prescription drug regulation & pricing, the other half of which cover about half of the provisions of the larger ACA 2.0 bill also rolled out by the House Dems last week.

Late last night, the E&C committee was burning the midnight oil (seriously...they were working on it past midnight) during the "markup langage" part of the process...and ended up voting to approve all 12 bills:

E&C CHAIRMAN PALLONE ON PASSAGE OF 12 BILLS TO LOWER HEALTH CARE AND PRESCRIPTION DRUG COSTS FOR CONSUMERS
Apr 4, 2019

Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) released the following statement today after 12 bills to lower health care and prescription drug costs for consumers were favorably reported to the full House of Representatives:

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