Trump Administration Expected to Reverse Rule Requiring Employers To Cover Birth Control

The Trump administration is expected to soon issue regulations that would expand religious and moral exemptions for covering birth control in employer health insurance plans, a move that critics say would limit women’s access to contraception. The exact details of the exemptions remain unclear, but women’s health advocates are bracing for a legal fight. See The Washington Post for more information.

Trump Administration Unveils Health Care Options For Small Companies

The proposal is aimed at two types of companies: small firms that are not required to offer health insurance and medium-sized firms that usually only offer their workers a single plan. The biggest change involves expanding the use of tax-free HRAs to allow more workers to buy their own health insurance.  The proposed rule undoes Obama administration guidance that had prohibited employers from funding HRAs to pay for workers’ individual health insurance premiums.  For more information, see the AP, CNN, The Hill, and the Washington Examiner.

Premiums Drop For Most Popular ACA Plans In 2019

The average premium for the second-lowest-cost plans offering mid-level coverage will decline next year by 1.5 percent, the first time this benchmark has declined since the federal insurance exchange made its debut in 2014.  Though the average decrease is small, it is a very positive change from the double-digit increases experienced over the past two years.  See the New York Times, the Washington Post and USA Today for more information.

CVS-Aetna $69 Billion Merger Approved With Conditions

The Justice Department antitrust enforcers cleared CVS Health Corp.’s acquisition of Aetna Inc. after the companies took steps to ease regulators’ concerns, moving the nearly $70 billion deal a major step closer.  Critics of the CVS-Aetna deal had worried that the merger could lead to higher drug prices for Medicare Part D beneficiaries. Opponents such as the American Medical Association also said the acquisition could increase insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenses more broadly.  For more information, see the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.

Cost of Employer-Provided Health Care,Deductibles Continued To Rise This Year

As Employer-Provided coverage and deductibles continue to rise, reports show that this trend will not be leveling off anytime soon.  Reports show that the average cost of a family plan through an employer was almost $20,000 this year.  In 1999, the average total premium for a family health insurance policy, taking in what workers and their employers paid, was about 14 percent of median household income. By last year, that was up to 31 percent.  For more information, see the Wall Street Journal, the APBloomberg News  and CNN Money.

Medicaid spending is set to surge to over $1 trillion by 2026, while the number of enrollees tapers off.

Driven in part by the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, it’s projected that over the next 10 years, “expenditures would grow at an average annual rate of 5.7%, reaching over $1 trillion by 2026,” the article says. In a statement, CMS Administrator Seema Verma “said the projected growth in spending was ‘simply unsustainable’ and that the government should be looking for ways to slow that growth.  For more information, see Fierce Healthcare.

Potential Downsides For Consumers With New Short-Term Plans

The short-term plans are not yet available, but several large insurers are expressing concern.  They say the broader availability and longer duration of these slimmed-down policies has the potential to harm consumers. Those who rely on short-term plans for an extended time period will face high medical bills when they need care that isn’t covered or exceed their coverage limits.  Please see the AP, the Huffington Post and the Los Angeles Times for more information.

Access to Short-Term Plans Expanded By The Administration

A final rule by the Trump administration clears the way for short-term policies that the administration claims will help people who are struggling to afford coverage. These policies are intended to fill brief gaps in coverage and will be available for 12 months at a time.  Some say these policies may not be right for everybody.  Please see The New York Times, the Washington Post and USA Today for more information.