A digest of health care information about cost savings, public policy, and staying healthy in retirement.
The federal government has approved a Colorado reinsurance plan designed to lower premiums for individuals buying insurance on the state health care exchange, Gov. Jared Polis announced on July 31. Premiums next year for 400,000 Coloradans – about 8 percent of those buying insurance on the exchange – will drop by more than 18 percent with a reinsurance plan in place, officials estimate. The largest decreases in premium costs are expected for rural Coloradans who participate in the state’s health benefit exchange program, Connect for Health Colorado, according to projections released by the Governor. The program will begin with 2020 coverage plans.
Note that the PERACare program will not be impacted, as the reinsurance program only affects people buying their own insurance on the individual market. But PERA retirees under age 65 could take advantage of the lower individual premiums, if eligible.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted on July 17 to pass a bill that would scrap Obamacare’s so-called Cadillac tax, an inactive provision of the health law meant to help control health-care spending. The tax, set to go into effect in 2022, is unpopular with both Republicans and Democrats, who say it punishes the middle class. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., who introduced the bill earlier this year and has spent years trying to repeal the provision in the health law, has said the tax would put workers and their families’ health coverage at risk. Were the Cadillac tax to go into effect, it would impact PERACare enrollees and, likely, employees of PERA employers.
The Trump Administration on July 31 unveiled two new plans that could allow Americans to pay cheaper prices for expensive drugs, including insulin. Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will move forward with two regulatory proposals that are priorities for President Donald Trump. The first would authorize pilot programs by states, wholesalers, or pharmacists to import Canadian versions of certain FDA-approved drugs. The other would give drugmakers a way to start negotiating new distribution contracts in order to sell their lower-priced foreign versions of a wide swath of drugs. These would include biologics like insulin and arthritis medications.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is being challenged in the courts yet again — and a Fifth Circuit decision could help determine whether that fight winds up going any further. On July 9, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in the case of Texas v. Azar, a suit brought by 18 state attorneys general — and endorsed by President Donald Trump’s Administration. The hearing comes in the wake of a 2018 decision by District Court Judge Reed O’Connor, who determined that the ACA is unconstitutional now that Congress has rolled back the penalty requiring everyone who did not carry health insurance to pay a fine. Legal experts on both sides of the aisle have argued that O’Connor’s reasoning was faulty and likely to be overturned by the Fifth Circuit. Questions from two of the three judges hearing the case, however, indicated that they, too, were interested in gauging the constitutionality of the law as it stands.
Judge Blocks Trump Rule Requiring Drug Companies to List Prices in TV Ads|The New York Times
A federal judge ruled on July 8 that the Trump Administration cannot force pharmaceutical companies to disclose the list price of their drugs in television ads, dealing a blow to one of the President’s most visible efforts to pressure drug companies to lower their prices. Judge Amit P. Mehta, of the United States District Court in the District of Columbia, ruled that the Department of Health and Human Services exceeded its regulatory authority by seeking to require all drugmakers to include in their television commercials the list price of any drug that costs more than $35 a month.
The Trump administration on July 10 set goals to move more kidney disease treatment into patients’ homes and increase transplants while reducing the U.S. reliance on more costly dialysis clinics. President Donald Trump signed an executive order underscoring these goals, and the U.S. health agency said it would test new payment structures, including one that rewards end-stage renal disease facilities and doctors who meet targets in these areas. The U.S. government spends $114 billion each year to treat chronic kidney disease and end-stage renal disease.