Overnight Health Care — Presented by the Association of American Medical Colleges — Trump officials move to expand non-ObamaCare health plans | ‘Zero tolerance’ policy stirs fears in health community | New ObamaCare repeal plan
Welcome to Overnight Health Care, ObamaCare edition.
Today, the Trump administration released final rules that would expand cheaper, non-ObamaCare “association health plans.” The rules come as conservative groups, led by the Heritage Foundation, released a new plan to repeal ObamaCare. There aren’t many constants in life, but a Heritage Foundation plan to repeal ObamaCare might be one of them.
And in other health news, fewer American adults are smoking cigarettes than ever before.
We’ll start with the new insurance options:
Trump officials unveil long-awaited Association Health Plan rule.
The Trump administration on Tuesday took a step toward its goal of opening up cheaper, non-ObamaCare insurance options.
The plans, called association health plans, allow small businesses and other groups to band together to buy health insurance.
The details: The plans cannot charge people more for pre-existing conditions, but they don’t have to comply with ObamaCare’s essential health benefits, covering things like prescription drugs or mental health care. That makes them cheaper but also narrower.
What Trump said: After a long talk on immigration, Trump finally got around to health care in his speech to a small business group today.
“I’m proud to announce another truly historical step in our efforts to rescue Americans from ObamaCare and the ObamaCare nightmare,” the president said. “This is low cost, great healthcare.”
He even joked people could “shake hands, form an association, good luck.”
Democrats punch back: Democrats flooded our inboxes with statements denouncing the move.
“Finalizing this rule is simply the latest act of sabotage of our health care system by the Trump administration and a back door to expanding junk insurance plans that weaken protections for people with pre-existing conditions,” said Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.).
Conservative groups want to try repeal one more time.
There’s a new ObamaCare repeal and replacement plan…though it looks a lot like the bill from Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) from last year in many ways.
Who’s behind it: Heritage Foundation, Galen Institute, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and other outside groups
Who’s not behind it: Members of Congress… at least not yet.
Policy: Like Graham-Cassidy, it includes a block grant to states with the money from ObamaCare’s subsidies and Medicaid expansion. It does not include a cap on Medicaid spending, which Graham-Cassidy did have. It eliminates ObamaCare’s essential health benefits, the requirement that all plans cover services like mental health and prescription drugs, which backers say would allow for cheaper plans.
Bottom line: There’s no real path forward for a new repeal effort right now, but some Republicans are still pushing at least.
The Trump administration’s ‘zero tolerance’ immigration policy separating children from their parents can have lasting impacts on their health.
“The toxic stress resulting from being separated or ripped away from your parents can result in mental health conditions like depression, anxiety and PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder],” said Dr. Ranit Mishori, a professor of family medicine at Georgetown University.
“But also, down the line, there is evidence that it contributes to heart disease, stroke, diabetes and even cancer.”
Why it matters: Nearly 2,000 children have been separated from their families and adult caretakers between April 19 and the end of May as a result of the policy. Children are sent to shelters operated by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, while adults are sent to detention centers to await prosecution.
Every major health association has spoken out against the policy.
“Any forced separation is highly stressful for children and can cause lifelong trauma, as well as an increased risk of other mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder,” American Psychiatric Association President Altha Stewart said in a statement.
Fewer U.S. adults are smoking cigarettes, according to new government data.
About 14 percent of adults age 18 and over smoked cigarettes last year. That’s down from nearly 16 percent in 2016, according to an annual national health survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This is an all time low in the U.S.
Doctors oppose Aetna-CVS merger
The country’s largest physician lobbying group wants the Trump administration to block a proposed merger between Aetna and CVS.
The American Medical Association (AMA) announced its formal opposition during a hearing Tuesday before the California Department of Insurance.
AMA said it is concerned the proposed merger between the nation’s largest pharmacy and third-largest health insurer will result in reduced competition in the insurance market.
Facebook has launched a new feature aimed at connecting users with opioid treatment services.
What it does: Facebook users seeking to illegally buy opioids or to find treatment for an addiction will be met with a new feature offering the federal government’s national helpline, the company said Tuesday.
Key quote: “We look at this as one of a number of steps that we’ve taken and will be taking to find ways to connect the community on Facebook with the resources they need,” Avra Siegel, Facebook’s policy programs manager who’s running its efforts to counteract the opioid epidemic, told The Hill.
Also: This comes as FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has told social media companies and internet service providers to do more to combat the illegal sale of opioids on their platforms. The FDA is holding a one-day opioid summit with internet stakeholders, which Facebook plans to attend.
Read more here.
Lawmakers hear from local officials on opioid fight
Lawmakers held a hearing in Pennsylvania on Tuesday to hear state and local officials about their efforts to combat the opioid epidemic in the state. The special hearing, organized by Reps. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) and Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.) at the state house in Harrisburg, Pa., was aimed at preventing what Perry called “crisis that has affected the entire American homeland.”
Here are three takeaways from The Hill’s Jasper Goodman.
- Law enforcement officials said that the crisis has far reaching effects, even beyond the estimated 115 Americans who die from opioids each day. David Sunday, the district attorney for Pennsylvania’s York County, told lawmakers that the uptick in narcotics abuse has led to a rise in other crimes as well.”Close to 80 percent of all of the crime in York County — all of the crime — is either directly or tangentially related to this epidemic and to drug abuse,” Sunday said. “That includes retail thefts, thefts, domestic violence, robberies, aggravated assaults, murders, DUIs. … Over half the DUIs are either alcohol and drugs, or just purely drug-related.”
- One aspect of the opioid epidemic that is little discussed is its devastating effect on state and local budgets. The uptick in narcotics abuse is “decimating our local resources,” according to Sunday, who created a heroin task force in 2013. “Our budgets are completely blasted by this,” he said.
- The law enforcement community is trying new ways to fight opioids. The Pennsylvania State Police has set up 15 drug take-back boxes around the state and K-9 teams have helped law enforcement to detect the presence of fentanyl, an extremely powerful opioid, in packages.
Sponsored Content –Association of American Medical Colleges
While all doctors are trained to treat pain and addiction, specialists in these fields are critical to address this issue in urban and rural communities alike. The bipartisan “Opioid Workforce Act of 2018” would provide federal support to train more doctors in addiction medicine, addiction psychiatry, and pain management. We urge Congress to include this legislation in any final package to combat the opioid epidemic. www.aamc.org/opioidresponse
The Hill event
Join us Tuesday, June 26 for “Mergers and Innovation: Measuring Performance and Patient Care,” featuring HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas). Topics of discussion include how the landscape of health care delivery in the United States is undergoing a dramatic shift, its implications for health care industry stakeholders and patients and also the role of Congress in ensuring all Americans have access to quality care. RSVP Here.
What we’re reading
MACPAC proposes changes to Medicaid drug rebate program (Modern Healthcare)
Fact-checking Democratic attack on Kevin Cramer’s statements on Social Security and Medicare (PolitiFact)
State by state
Maine keeps battling over Medicaid expansion (Wall Street Journal)
Illinois Medicaid to expand preventative dental care (WGNTV)
From The Hill’s opinion pages
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