Week ahead: ObamaCare sign-up drive kicks off
The first ObamaCare open enrollment of the Trump administration begins on Wednesday, Nov. 1, a crucial test for officials.
While the administration has been focused on trying to dismantle the law, officials have said they still want the sign-up period to run smoothly.
The administration opened healthcare.gov for “window shopping” on Oct. 25, allowing people to browse plans ahead of the actual enrollment period.
However, supporters of the law say actions taken by the administration have made it even more imperative for consumers to shop around and find the best plan available. The president has cut off the cost-sharing subsidies for insurers; sent mixed messages about the individual insurance mandate; and cut the budget for outreach and advertising by 90 percent.
Shopping for the best plan is a sound theory, but in practice, many consumers are confused, given the debate over repeal of the law and the surrounding frenzy, and might be hit with a premium increase because they did not realize they could find a better deal on a different plan.
Another change from the past is the lack of a sign-up goal.
The Obama administration used to release a projection for enrollment, which then served as a target goal for the yearly push, but the Trump administration will not be following suit.
Still, the Department of Health and Human Services says it will be sending email and text message reminders to people about enrolling, with a new emphasis on pointing out that the enrollment period is shorter than in previous years. The deadline to sign up is Dec. 15.
The ObamaCare enrollment drive isn’t the only big health story in the coming week with both the House and Senate in session.
In the House, disagreements over the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) are coming to a head.
Republicans plan to bring a partisan bill to the floor in the coming week.
The long-awaited vote comes after Republicans and Democrats failed to reach an agreement on how to pay for the program following weeks of negotiations.
Funding for the program expired a month ago, leaving states in a precarious spot.
“The reason why we’re bringing it up next week is not because next week was the date we wanted to. We wanted to get this done long ago, but the reason why we’re doing it next week is because Minnesota’s about to run out of money,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said in a floor speech.
The Energy and Commerce Committee earlier this month passed a bill extending funding for CHIP for five years with no support from Democrats. The legislation also provides $1 billion to help Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program.
Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) delayed sending the bill to the floor for a vote to continue negotiations with Democrats on offsets.
McCarthy said late last week those negotiations have not worked out. Democrats argue there’s no point to passing a partisan CHIP bill, as it doesn’t stand a chance of moving through the Senate.
The Senate Finance Committee approved a bipartisan five-year extension for CHIP earlier this month but has not yet said what the offsets will be. Senate aides say both sides are still negotiating.
Events and hearings
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will hold a hearing to examine implementation of the 21st Century Cures Act, focusing on achieving the promise of health information technology on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m.
The House Judiciary Committee will hold a markup of a controversial anti-abortion bill, H.R. 490, the “Heartbeat Protection Act” at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on “Concerns over Federal Select Agent Program Oversight of Dangerous Pathogens” Thursday at 10:15 a.m.
The Hill event
Join The Hill on Nov. 7 for America’s Opioid Epidemic: Strategies for Prevention featuring Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.). Topics of conversation include the response to the opioid crisis, prevention initiatives and the role education might play in lowering addiction rates.
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