HHS Secretary Alex Azar on Wednesday said Medicaid may soon allow hospitals and health systems to directly pay for housing, healthy food or other solutions for the “whole person.”
In a speech supported by the Hatch Foundation for Civility and Solutions and Intermountain Healthcare in Washington, Azar said Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation officials are looking to move beyond existing efforts to partner with social services groups and try to manage social determinants of health as they see appropriate.
The CMS may soon make it easier for states to use federal funds to pay for Medicaid enrollees to receive treatment at inpatient mental health facilities. The agency issued a letter to Medicaid directors Tuesday saying they will be able to cover an average of 30 days of care at institutions of mental disease, or IMDs, through a new waiver. In a speech shortly before the announcement, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said the Trump administration is increasingly concerned that Medicaid beneficiaries aren’t receiving critically needed care because of the IMD exclusion. “Today, we have the worst of both worlds: limited access to inpatient treatment and limited access to other options,” Azar said at the National Association of Medicaid Directors conference Tuesday. “It is the responsibility of state and federal governments together, alongside communities and families, to right this wrong.”
Uninsured individuals, people between jobs, recent graduates, and new retirees, among others, now have access to affordable short-term plans. These plans—an opportunity that arose from flexibility granted with new federal rules—allow Americans to purchase health plans they can afford and are right for them. There will be thousands of new options on the market (see this new analysis for more detail and data), giving Americans something they haven’t had in years: choice of health insurance and carrier. By contrast, for an individual on the exchange, in a majority of U.S. counties, only one insurer is offering plans. The data also show that these choices cost significantly less for someone that is uninsured than plans on the individual market.
CMS has issued a proposed regulation that makes smaller changes to the standards states meet when running their Medicaid plans. The proposed rule would give states some new flexibility in setting rates for their managed care plans and ensuring insurance companies have adequate provider networks. The CMS worked with Medicaid directors to develop the proposal. “Today’s action fulfills one of my earliest commitments to reset and restore the federal-state relationship, while at the same time modernizing the program to deliver better outcomes for the people we serve,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a statement.
Late last week, President Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced a plan to deal with the high cost of prescription drugs in the U.S. relative to the price of the same drugs in other developed countries. The reason for this disparity is well-known: Other countries impose socialized medicine price controls on prescription medicines, while here in the U.S. the price charged is closer to the true market price of the product.
HHS wants to cancel its plans to postpone imposing new ceiling prices for the 340B drug discount program. The agency issued a proposed rulemaking on Wednesday that suggested the long-delayed rule will now be effective Jan. 1, instead of July 1, 2019, as originally announced earlier this year.
HHS has delayed the effective date of the ceiling price rule five times, which would cap the prices drugmakers can charge hospitals that participate in 340B. The American Hospital Association and several other medical trade groups sued the agency last fall to force it to publish the delayed regulations.
Between the election campaign and incidents of terrorism ranging from attempted bombings to a synagogue shooting, an obscure regulatory proposal by the Trump administration has yet to captivate the public’s attention. However, it has the potential to change the way millions of Americans obtain health insurance.
In August 2018, the Trump administration finalized a rule to strengthen short-term plans by allowing individuals to keep them for a period of up to 364 days. This standard is the same one that existed for nearly twenty years, until—eight days before the 2016 election—the Obama administration suddenly prohibited consumers from buying short-term plans for longer than three months at a time. The new rule also provides consumers with the opportunity to renew these plans annually for up to three years.
The new rule is one of several strategies the Trump administration has pursued to offer more affordable options to millions of Americans who were priced out of the insurance market by skyrocketing premiums. Premiums in the individual market more than doubled between 2013 and 2017 and premiums for the benchmark plan in the individual market increased by another 37 percent on average in 2018.
While Obamacare has been neither repealed nor replaced, it is being superseded. As President Donald Trump said, “We will deliver relief to American workers, families, and small businesses, who right now are being crushed by Obamacare, by increasing freedom, choice, and opportunity for the American people.”
The total number of Americans with health insurance rose from 292.3 million in 2016 to 294.6 million in 2017, the Census Bureau reports. Some of the following new reforms have helped 2.3 million more Americans enjoy medical coverage and alternatives under Republican leadership rather than Democrat mismanagement.
Ever since efforts to legislatively repeal Obamacare ended ignominiously with a “thumbs down” from the late Sen. John McCain on the Senate floor, the Trump administration has been hard at work doing what they can to give families more and better healthcare choices than what Obamacare saddled them with. In so doing, they have created several welcome escape hatches from Obamacare, or what Phil Kerpen from American Commitment calls “Making Obamacare Optional.”