Overnight Health Care: Arkansas Medicaid work rules could cost thousands coverage | Record number of overdose deaths in 2017 | Dems demand immediate reunification of separated children

Overnight Health Care: Arkansas Medicaid work rules could cost thousands coverage |  Record number of overdose deaths in 2017 | Dems demand immediate reunification of separated children
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Welcome to Wednesday's Overnight Health Care. Today we got our first look at how Arkansas's Medicaid work requirements are affecting the state, two months after the rules were rolled out.


The data from Arkansas shows that thousands of Medicaid enrollees are at risk of losing their coverage.

The requirements mandate that some Medicaid beneficiaries work or complete similar activities to retain benefits. They went into effect in June after being approved by the Trump administration.

Beneficiaries who don't report their work activities to the state, or fail to meet the 80-hour-per-month work requirement, could lose coverage if they don't meet the requirements for three months out of the year.


The report examines compliance with the requirements in July, the program's second month of operation. The numbers:

  • 5,426 people are in their second month of noncompliance.
  • In July, 12,722 people either failed to report their activities to the state or didn't meet the 80-hour-a-month requirement.
  • The vast majority of those people -- about 12,587 -- didn't log on to the state's Medicaid website and report their activities.
  • The remaining 135 people did report their activities, but failed to meet the 80-hour threshold.
  • Overall, the state said, only 844 people who were required to report their activities to keep coverage reported at least 80 hours of work or other activities.

Why it matters: Opponents of work requirements in Medicaid have long argued that it would cause people to lose coverage -- not because they weren't working, but because they weren't telling the state they are working. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, six in 10 adult Medicaid enrollees are already working. From their brief, released in June:

"However, since one in three Medicaid adults never use a computer or the internet and four in ten do not use email, many enrollees would face barriers in complying with work reporting requirements to maintain coverage," Kaiser wrote in a brief in June.

What's next: Look out for next month's report, while will detail how many people complied with the requirements in August. But also look out for developments in a lawsuit the National Health Law Program filed Tuesday against the administration for approving Arkansas' work requirements.

Read about the report here.


Drug overdoses hit new record in 2017

More than 72,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2017, according to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That represents an increase of more than 6,000 deaths, or 9.5 percent, over the estimate for the previous 12-month period.

The increase was driven primarily by a continued surge in deaths involving synthetic opioids, a category that includes fentanyl. There were nearly 30,000 deaths involving those drugs in 2017, an increase of more than 9,000 since 2016.

CDC noted the numbers are still preliminary and may change. The agency also updates these numbers every month. The recent inclusion of December 2017 means data from the entire year are now available for analysis.

Read more here


Group finds weed-killing chemical in dozens of breakfast foods

A widely used herbicide that has been labeled a carcinogen by some organizations has been found in a number of breakfast foods, according to a new study.

In tests of 45 products made from oats, the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that all but two had traces of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup.

Out of those products, 31 had levels above what the EWG's scientists consider safe for children, which is .01 milligrams per day.

Read more here.


Senate Dems demand reunification of remaining separated children

A group of Senate Democrats is demanding that the Trump administration immediately work to reunify the more than 500 immigrant children in federal custody who were separated from their parents after crossing the southern border.

The 17 Democrats, led by Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisWomen set to take key roles in Biden administration Trump campaign appeals dismissal of Pennsylvania election challenge Pressure grows from GOP for Trump to recognize Biden election win MORE (Calif.) sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenJudge says acting DHS secretary appointment unlawful, invalidates DACA suspension Biden's hard stand on foreign election interference signals funding fight The 'Anonymous' saga ended with a dud — a perfect example of the problem of Trump-era media MORE calling for immediate action to reunite the families of 539 immigrant children still in government custody because of the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy.

"Each passing day that DHS fails to act to reunite separated immigrant children with their parents unacceptably exacerbates trauma that this administration has needlessly caused for children and their families seeking humanitarian protection," the senators wrote.

What they want: The Democrats demanded DHS locate the parents deported without their children and offer them the opportunity to return to the U.S. and apply for asylum. They also said DHS needs to offer an opportunity for parents to rebut evidence that they were deemed "ineligible" for reunification.

Read more about the Democrats' demands here  


What we're reading

Express Scripts staking out million-dollar gene therapies (Reuters)

Drug middlemen push back, say rebates are to blame for high drug prices (Washington Examiner)

Trump's immigrant health care rule could hurt low-income populations (Modern Healthcare)


State by state

Feds: Problems at South Dakota hospital pose 'immediate and serious threat' (Argus Leader)

Maine governor's legal costs to rise as Medicaid suit continues (Associated Press)

Illinois Gov. Rauner makes changes to bill on Medicaid eligibility backlog (The State Journal-Register)


From The Hill's opinion page:

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