Overnight Health Care: Governors urge Congress to fund key ObamaCare payments | Warren backs Sanders’ single-payer bill | Advocates seek long-term funding for children’s health program

Overnight Health Care: Governors urge Congress to fund key ObamaCare payments | Warren backs Sanders’ single-payer bill | Advocates seek long-term funding for children’s health program
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A bipartisan group of governors on Thursday called on Congress to fund key ObamaCare payments and take other steps to stabilize the health-care law.

The group of three Republican and two Democratic governors agreed that Congress should fund ObamaCare payments to insurers known as cost-sharing reductions, which President Trump has threatened to cancel in a bid to make the law "implode."

Insurers have cited uncertainty over whether the payments will continue as a reason why they are needing to raise premiums for next year.

"It would be irresponsible to allow these markets to collapse," said Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) in testimony before the Senate Health Committee, which is working on bipartisan legislation to stabilize ObamaCare markets.


He said that while he is "not a fan" of the payments, he thinks they should continue for one or two years. The market "needs predictability," he said.

Republicans sued President Obama for making the payments without a congressional appropriation, but many in the GOP are now looking to provide a congressional guarantee for the payments to prevent market collapse.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Health Committee, has floated one year for the payments, but some governors, along with Democratic lawmakers in Congress, are pushing for at least two years.

Alexander also noted that Republicans will need something in return for providing the payments, namely added flexibility for states to change and repeal ObamaCare regulations using waivers.

Governors also called for flexibility, but the details of how much flexibility to give are in dispute.

Read more here.


Advocates call for long-term funding of children's health program

Children's health advocates on Thursday called on lawmakers to pass a long-term funding extension for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Federal funding for 9 million low- and middle-income children is set to expire at the end of September, setting up a crucial deadline for a Congress already grappling with other high-stakes battles.

CHIP has historically been a bipartisan affair, and during a Senate Finance Committee hearing, lawmakers indicated there wouldn't be any major issues with reauthorizing the program.

"Personally, I'm optimistic about this committee's chances," said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the committee's ranking member. "It's important for Congress to take action soon. There's no kicking this can down the road with a short-term bill. And this cannot wait until December."

The sticking points are the duration of the reauthorization, whether any other measures will be attached and whether to continue enhanced federal matching funds that were first included in the Affordable Care Act.

Read more here.


New York extends ObamaCare enrollment deadlines

New York will extend its open enrollment period for ObamaCare plans, citing concerns about an earlier deadline set by the federal government.

New York's open enrollment will now begin on Nov. 1 and end on Jan. 31, officials said on Thursday.

The Trump administration cut this year's open enrollment in half for states that use the federal marketplace. It will end for those states on Dec. 15.

"Our goal is to ensure that consumers have adequate time to shop for and enroll in the health plan that is best for their family," Donna Frescatore, executive director of New York State of Health, said in a statement.

California, Colorado, Minnesota, Washington, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., have all extended their open enrollment periods past the deadline set by the administration.

Read more here.


Warren co-sponsoring Sanders's 'Medicare for All' bill

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said Thursday she is co-sponsoring Sen. Bernie Sanders's (I-Vt.) "Medicare for All bill," the latest Democrat to back a signature Sanders campaign issue.

"I believe it's time to take a step back and ask: what is the best way to deliver high quality, low cost health care to all Americans?" Warren, often considered a potential presidential candidate in 2020, said in a statement Thursday.

"Everything should be on the table -- and that's why I'm co-sponsoring Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersWarren joins Sanders in support of striking McDonald's workers Kavanaugh allegations could be monster storm brewing for midterm elections      Senate approves 4B spending bill MORE' Medicare for All bill that will be introduced later this month."

Warren joins Sanders, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and even more moderate Senators like Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who this week said that the idea deserves attention.

Read more here.


Optima's exit may leave many Virginia counties with no ObamaCare insurer

More than sixty thousand ObamaCare enrollees in Virginia could be without an insurer next year after Optima Health announced it was leaving many of the state's markets, according to officials in the state.

Optima said it plans to exit many of the counties that it served in 2017, after previously planning to cover nearly the entire state next year. The move would leave 63 of Virginia's 95 counties without an insurance option for 2018.

According to state officials, the void will be mostly in rural localities, where access to doctors and hospitals is limited.

Optima also said it would be raising premiums by 81 percent for any customer who doesn't qualify for subsidies from the federal government. However, this would only affect about 30 percent of its customers. The rest would only see an increase of 1.5 percent, or about $4 a month.

Optima said some of the premium increase was due to uncertainty surrounding federal funding for ObamaCare's cost-sharing reduction payments. It also said some of the increase was due to other national carriers leaving the state.

Anthem, Aetna and UnitedHealth have already announced plans to exit Virginia's ObamaCare markets entirely next year.

Read more here.


What we're reading:

ObamaCare's 'guardrails' are crucial issue as Congress debates the law (statnews.com)

Congress' tight timetable complicates renewal of Children's Health Plan (khn.org)

1 in 5 men drop out of the labor market because of drugs (Fortune)


State by state

Indiana proposes work requirement for state health coverage (Fox 59)

Mass. Senate leaders honing bill to rein in state's health care costs (The Boston Globe)

Senate to meet on barriers to health care in Georgia (Atlanta Journal Constitution)



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