15:22 PM

Friday Federal Roundup: CBO, CHIP, and More

As a partner to states and the largest Medicaid / CHIP dental benefits administrator in the country, we at DentaQuest must stay updated on the latest health care policy trends - in large part because anything in the health space affects the oral health space.

Recent federal health reform proposals could have significant implications for Medicaid programs, exchange populations, and oral health coverage for low-income families. We keep our employees apprised of the latest happenings in Washington D.C. with weekly federal newsletters, and thought this week was particularly relevant for more than our staff.

Here’s this week’s newsletter.

CBO Releases Report on Subsidies

According to a report released earlier this week by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), insurance premiums for ACA plans would rise 20 percent next year and in some areas of the country, people would not have any insurance options if the Trump administration scraps key ACA subsidies. Trump has repeatedly threatened to pull the ACA subsidies, particularly since Congress failed to pass repeal and replacement legislation before the summer recess. CBO’s analysis also found that eliminating the payments would increase the federal deficit by $194 billion over a decade because of higher spending on premiums subsidies. Trump must decide by early next week whether or not to make next month’s payment.

Congress Turns Attention to CHIP

Funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) expires September 30th. With Congress out on recess, this leaves few legislative working days to ensure that nearly 9 million children maintain their medical and dental coverage. While CHIP reauthorization has historically been a bipartisan issue through the years, the hotly-contested debates over ACA repeal and replacement have left state officials anxiously awaiting assurances from Capitol Hill that 2017 will be no different. We will continue to monitor federal discussions on the future of CHIP and advocate where possible for the vital inclusion of dental coverage in reauthorization efforts.

Trump Administration Encouraging Medicaid Redesign Efforts, State Innovation

As Congress takes a pause on repeal and replacement efforts while they are on recess, states are looking to the Trump administration in the interim for more regulatory flexibility. CMS is expected to soon approve a Medicaid waiver from Kentucky which among other things would require most Medicaid-eligible adults to work as a condition of receiving coverage. Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, and Maine are considering similar work requirements. HHS Secretary Tom Price and CMS Director Seema Verma have both expressed that they are in favor of such Medicaid redesign proposals.

Last month Alaska became the first state to get increased flexibility from the administration to prop up its individual marketplace with a reinsurance program. Minnesota, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and Oregon are some other states that have already filed or are considering similar waiver proposals to submit to CMS.

HHS Proposes to End Obama-era Payment Programs

HHS Secretary Price has announced plans to eliminate two Obama-era Medicare bundled payment programs and scale back on a third. This proposal would cancel initiatives that make hospitals more accountable for the cost of certain joint replacement surgeries and cardiac care, and shrink an existing program covering hip and knee surgeries. This is considered a victory for providers who oppose requirements to participate in new payment models. We will continue to monitor whether or not HHS will take further action to roll back requirements in order to slow down the transition to value-based reimbursement structures.