The Trump administration issued a proposed rule that would allow workers in large companies to use employee-provided tax-exempt health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) to help pay premiums for individual health insurance.

The goal, according to administration officials, is to empower employees to make their own decisions regarding the health care they choose to purchase. Rules imposed under President Barack Obama prevented employers from covering medical costs tax-free via HRAs, declaring they would not meet the federal government’s mandate requiring companies with more than 50 full-time employees to provide health insurance covering all items the Obama administration deemed “essential.”

The Trump administration on Monday urged states to scale back their certificate-of-need laws and scope of practice rules, as the executive branch promised to push back against hospital consolidations. In a sweeping 120-page report encompassing more than 50 policy recommendations, the White House blamed government and commercial insurance for putting up barriers to patients and hurting price transparency.

The Trump administration has made important progress in loosening the federal government’s grip on private health insurance, freeing up more options for affordable health insurance. But the administration has veered off this free-market track with its  recent proposal to, among other things, slap a form of imported price controls on a specific class of prescription drugs in Medicare.

Supporters of the nation’s health law condemn them. A few states, including California and New York, have banned them. Other states limit them.

But to some insurance brokers and consumers, short-term insurance plans are an enticing, low-cost alternative for healthy people.

HHS wants to cut down on the effort it takes providers to put information in electronic health records and to meet regulatory requirements, according to a new draft strategy. To achieve those goals, HHS, led by the CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, recommended simplifying Quality Payment Program and Promoting Interoperability reporting requirements, standardizing clinical information in EHRs, and improving the user experience of software for better workflows.

The Trump administration on Thursday outlined ways states will be allowed to waive parts of the Affordable Care Act, a move that has been welcomed by conservatives, spurred rebukes from Democrats and risks legal action.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which implements the health law, released four templates detailing how states may use waivers. States will get significantly more leeway to change the way they distribute and structure ACA premium subsidies that now go to almost nine million people.

HHS on Thursday said it will allow a rule imposing ceiling prices on the 340B drug discount program to go into effect next year, after years of delays.

The long-postponed rule will go into effect on Jan. 1, instead of the earlier-announced July 1, 2019 date, according to a finalized rulemaking.

HHS has delayed the effective date of the ceiling price rule five times. The change will cap the prices drugmakers can charge hospitals that participate in 340B.

 

Customers who buy plans on private health insurance exchange eHealth are taking advantage of their newfound ability to purchase an extended short-term insurance policy without triggering the individual mandate penalty, newly released data from the company shows.

Many more eHealth customers opted for short-term plans over unsubsidized Affordable Care Act-compliant plans during the first half of the ACA open enrollment period for 2019 coverage than during the previous open enrollment, eHealth said.

The Trump administration has a backup plan if a judge strikes down all or parts of Obamacare, a top federal healthcare official said Tuesday.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma told reporters that “we do have contingency plans” if the healthcare law is struck down — specifically the provision aimed at ensuring people with pre-existing conditions, such as cancer or diabetes, have access to coverage.

The Trump administration earlier this year made it easier for small businesses and self-employed workers to band together to buy insurance that didn’t have to abide by all of Obamacare’s rules. This story out of Nebraska highlights an early success of an association health plan. Under the new Trump administration rule, employer Land O’Lakes now offers workers comprehensive coverage at up to 35% less than exchange plans in the state. Land O’Lakes, several Nevada chambers of commerce, and the National Restaurant Association have formed association plans this year and each say they want to do what’s best for small businesses and their workers by providing an option that may be a better fit for a family than what’s available in the traditional individual and small-group markets.