The Justice Department has appealed a federal judge’s decision to strike down work requirements in Kentucky and Arkansas pertaining to certain Medicaid beneficiaries. The case will go before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia after being struck down March 27 by Judge James Boasberg of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, an appointee of former President Obama. At issue are rules the Trump administration approved in the states obligating some people who are able to work, volunteer, or take classes for 80 hours a month to be allowed to remain on Medicaid. The rules don’t apply to caregivers, parents, and people undergoing treatment for serious illness.

Seeking to show Republicans’ commitment to protecting those with pre-existing conditions, a group of GOP senators led by Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina is reviving and expanding a bill that would retain at least some of the protections built into Obamacare. The move is an attempt to address concerns that the popular and ironclad provisions secured by the ACA may disappear amid President Trump’s renewed drive to overturn the landmark health reform law. It comes as Democrats offer up an array of new proposals for universal, government-backed health coverage. The bill’s introduction comes less than two weeks after the Trump administration said in a federal appeals filing that the entire ACA should be struck down.

A federal judge on Thursday rejected the Trump administration’s attempts to expand access to association health plan. U.S. District Judge John Bates in Washington said the administration’s final rule allowing associations and employers to band together to create AHPs goes beyond its authority under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). The Trump administration’s rule allows employers to join together to gain more efficiencies of scale in purchasing coverage and services, and the plans are more affordable because they don’t have to follow many ACA rules. 

Democrats in the House of Representatives have put aside grandiose thoughts of Medicare-for-All and single-payer health insurance – at least for a day or two. Instead, they have introduced a new health plan with a more modest goal: making Obamacare work better.

It has three elements:

  • Expand health insurance subsidies to everyone. (Individuals are currently ineligible for help if they earn $48,560 or more.)
  • Create a national reinsurance pool to subsidize insurance companies that incur high costs.
  • Reverse Trump administration regulations that make it easier to obtain limited-benefit insurance.

So, what’s wrong with that? For starters, it uses taxpayer dollars to give money to rich people and insurance companies.

The Trump administration’s decision to ask a federal appeals court to invalidate the Affordable Care Act has given House Democrats a new opening to pursue what they see as a winning political strategy: moving past talk of impeachment to put kitchen-table issues like health care front and center.

The Democrats’ new bill aims to lower health insurance premiums, strengthen protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions and ban the sale of what Democrats call “junk insurance.”

The Trump Administration has proposed using its demonstration authority under section 1115A of the Social Security Act to test a method of reimbursement for physician-administered drugs based on prices in 14 countries. The proposal is controversial, raising constitutional questions about the agency’s authority to modify Medicare reimbursement absent congressional action, as well as objections to the use of international reference pricing. A recent paper from the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity (FREOPP) makes a useful contribution to this debate. The FREOPP paper recommends that the administration construct a market-based international index (MBII) that would exclude “industrialized countries with little room for market-based pricing.” This report examines the drug pricing and reimbursement policies in MBII countries and finds that these policies are generally not market-based. Secondly, it presents data showing that many drugs introduced between 2011 and 2018 are not available to consumers in MBII countries. Under the proposal advanced by the administration and that suggested by FREOPP, Medicare reimbursement for physician-administered drugs would largely be based on international reference prices in which the regulatory agency of one government sets drug prices based at least in part on those set by regulatory agencies in other countries. Importing these mutually reinforcing, centralized decisions into Medicare may reduce reimbursement for physician-administered drugs, but the new reimbursement system cannot be said to be based on market prices.

Finland’s coalition government resigned on Friday a month ahead of a general election, saying it could not deliver on a healthcare reform package that is widely seen as crucial to securing long-term government finances.

Healthcare systems across much of the developed world have come under increasing stress in recent years as treatment costs soar and people live longer, meaning fewer workers are supporting more pensioners.

Three years ago this month, as alarms were sounding across the country about the over-prescription of opioid painkillers, the federal government issued course-correcting guidelines for primary care doctors. But in a letter sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday, more than 300 medical experts, including three former White House drug czars, contend that the guidelines are harming one group of vulnerable patients: those with severe chronic pain who may have been taking opioids for years, without becoming addicted, so they can function in daily life and work. The leaders say the guidelines are being used as cover by insurers to deny reimbursement and by doctors to turn patients away.  

The sudden resignation of Scott Gottlieb, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, leaves a giant hole atop an agency that oversees a quarter of the U.S. economy. Which, of course, leads to an equally big question: Who will replace him? Top contenders include Amy Abernethy, formerly the chief medical officer at health data firm Flatiron Health, who became Gottlieb’s principal deputy commissioner early this year. Another contender is Ned Sharpless, director of the National Cancer Institute since October 2017, who would bring a deep knowledge of biotech to an FDA stint. And another is Brett Giroir, the current HHS assistant secretary for health, with experience in government, academia, and industry.

As centrist Republicans contemplated an Obamacare repeal-and-replace plan, the CBO warned that doing so would boost the number of uninsured by 22 million. That scared enough Republicans away to kill the bill. The intrepid Philip Klein at the Washington Examiner noticed that, buried in a footnote, was a stunning rebuke of those CBO forecasts. Turns out, the CBO’s forecasts off by a factor of six. The report says that the mandate repeal will result in only 1.5 million dropping out of the individual insurance market, and 1 million from employer plans, with Medicaid enrollment unaffected. These forecasting errors don’t even rise to the “good enough for government work” level. But they were good enough to get Obamacare on the books, and then keep it there.