OVERNIGHT HEALTHCARE: Premium hikes could spell long summer for Dems

Democrats could face an unusually hot summer as states begin releasing their 2015 premium rates in the run up to the midterms. If premium rates go up, as expected, it could boost Republicans, who have hammered Democrats over ObamaCare.

A survey by The Hill of state insurance commissioners found that news about ObamaCare premiums will hit nearly every week this summer providing ample opportunity for Republicans to play up significant premium hikes.

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Key battleground states like Colorado and Louisiana, where the GOP is targeting Democratic Senate incumbents, are expected to publish their proposed premium prices in June.

Other states such as West Virginia and Arkansas will wait until later in the summer to publish their numbers. Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) voted for the Affordable Care Act, a fact that his opponent, Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), has repeatedly raised.

Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), another top GOP target, will see her state publish rates on Aug. 15 or later.

ObamaCare’s critics have already warned that insurance providers are likely to raise premiums to compensate for competitively low prices this year. Some experts, though, argue it is too early to make such claims and markets are more likely to stay competitive, keeping premium costs down.

House Democrats Thursday released a report to calm concerns. "There appears to be no basis for the dire predictions that health insurance premiums will skyrocket in 2015," the report said.

They pointed to states like Virginia and Washington where they say premium increases are expected to be less than what has been observed in years before the Affordable Care Act came into effect.

MEASURE COULD DELAY MANDATE. Tennessee Republicans in the House and Senate proposed legislation Thursday to create a trigger to delay the employer mandate under ObamaCare.

The bill would require the CDC and the Government Accountability Office to conduct annual studies of the mandate. If their report found the provision would have a negative impact on small business health insurance premiums or jobs the mandate would be delayed for a year.

MEDICAID BACKLOG. Top Republicans in both houses also announced Thursday they had sent a letter to Marilyn Tavenner, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, asking her whether the agency was planning on penalizing states with a backlog of Medicaid applications.

The lawmakers blamed the backlog on the botched rollout of HealthCare.gov and said it would be unfair to punish states for a problem caused by the federal government’s mistakes.

OVERPRESCRIBED DRUGS. Top lawmakers on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Thursday voiced concerns over the conclusions of a new Government Accountability Office report that found foster youth are being overprescribed psychotropic drugs.

The report was put together at the request of Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and John McCain (R-Ariz.).

“We have a fundamental responsibility to provide for the health and well-being of the children in foster care in the United States,” said Collins.  “This includes ensuring that they are not inundated with unnecessary medications.”

The report included case studies of foster children receiving medical and psychological treatment and concluded more needs to be done to prevent overprescription of psychotropic drugs.

STATE BY STATE:

Ala. judge throws out $500M suit against Infirmary Health, allows claims against affiliates 

SoCal hospitals sue Kaiser for $140M 

Illinois lawmakers weigh Medicaid expansion

New Hampshire moves ahead with Medicaid plan

NY urges collaboration on Medicaid waiver dollars

Abortion doctors testify in trial over Alabama law 

LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS:

Mercury/ Argo Medical Technologies

READING LIST:

FDA and Interpol target illegal drug sales online, 

HHS warns that premium-assistance charities must be independent 

US investigates multi-state E.coli outbreak 

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED AT THE HILL:

Senate confirms HHS assistant secretary 

HHS to grant $840M to states

FDA worried about unreliable flu tests

FDA delays $150M food safety rule