Prime Policy Group’s Healthcare Today – Aug. 16, 2019

The Trump Administration released a final rule this week to redefine “public charge” in our immigration law to allow the federal government to deny green cards to individuals who would qualify for Medicaid and other federal benefits. Previously, public charge was defined as someone who primarily relied upon the federal government for subsistence. The Kaiser Family Foundation has warned that the rule could lead to millions of legal immigrants disenrolling in Medicaid. Thirteen states, the city of San Francisco, and Santa Clara County have all filed lawsuits to halt the rule from taking effect.

Speaking of Medicaid, former White House healthcare policy advisor Brian Blase co-authored an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal with Aaron Yelowitz, a University of Kentucky economist, claiming that there are a large number of individuals enrolled in Medicaid with incomes far above the thresholds for qualifying for the program. The authors relied upon a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research released this week. There are some limitations to the study’s data, which the authors acknowledge, in terms of how the individual qualified for Medicaid. In some states, Medicaid benefits can be bestowed based upon a medical condition and not income.

Attention to surprise medical bills continues with the release this week of a study published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA). JAMA is one of the most respected medical publications in the country. The study found that the rate of surprise medical bills for emergency room visits rose between 2010 and 2016 by ten percent and the mean amount of surprise bills increased from $220 to $628. We are expecting Congress to return its attention to this issue in the fall.

The American Medical Association (AMA) is dropping out of an alliance, the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, formed to try and stop Medicare for All. The alliance still counts large members from the American Hospital Association (AHA), America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). Younger physician members of AMA did not appreciate the alliance working against proposals to expand coverage like promoting a public option in the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) exchanges, as has been proposed by former Vice President Joe Biden, and urged the association to pull out.

Yesterday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a proposed rule, Required Warnings for Cigarette Packages and Advertisements, which lays out thirteen proposed warnings that would be included on all cigarette packs and advertisements. After a back and forth in the courts, the FDA was required to issue the rule which includes graphic images “depicting some of the lesser-known health risks of cigarette smoking,” per the FDA. The rule, the first major update to cigarette packaging in a generation, would require the images to cover half of the front and back of a cigarette package and the top twenty percent of the top of any advertisements.

If you are in Washington next week and do not have plans, consider checking out the Office of National Coordinator for Health Information Technology’s (ONC) interoperability forum being held on Wednesday at the Renaissance Hotel. There are five tracks for their afternoon sessions.


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