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.
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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.
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.
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.
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 AP, Bloomberg News and CNN Money.
The opioid package includes lifting some limits on Medicaid paying for care at treatments facilities, opioids being imported through the mail and the development of non-addictive painkillers. It’s expected that this bill will speed through both houses of Congress. See The Hill, the Washington Times and the Washington Examiner for more information.
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.
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.
Reports show only 14.4 million individual enrollments in the first quarter of 2018 compared to 17.4 million in 2015, after the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Please see The Hill for more information.
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.