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Coffee CAHC policy round-up: January 31, 2018

Coffee CAHC is a twice-weekly newsletter where we round up and comment on the latest health coverage policy developments both nationally and here in Maine. We hope you find these updates helpful!

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Coffee CAHC

115th Congress, 2nd session

128th Maine Legislature, 2nd regular session

 

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

Good morning! I’m cold. Are you cold? It’s cold.

I’m back from Washington (which was not a whole lot warmer). Apologies for missing the Friday edition, but between a packed conference schedule and sinking into the depths of That Cold That’s Going Around, it just didn’t happen.

Today I’m coming at you live from the Maine Center for Economic Policy’s Policy Insights 2018 conference. CAHC and MECEP have been partners for decades, and I’m excited to spend a day brainstorming with a packed room about the bright future we want to create for Maine. If you aren’t here in person, you can follow along with the conference at its Facebook event page, or check the hashtag #incon2018 on Facebook and Twitter.

 

National level

With the State of the Union airing last night, we all-

OH MY GOD AMAZON IS GOING TO SAVE HEALTH CARE WITH WARREN BUFFET HASHTAG WUT.

As you may have heard (or, if you own any health insurance stock, as you may be weeping over), a corporate titan superteam of Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway (Warren Buffet’s investment firm), and JP Morgan (…huh…) is promising to somehow “free” America from our eternally-skyrocketing health care prices.

I’m all for powerful new innovators thinking carefully about how to rein in our health care spending, but color me skeptical on this one. The announcement was pure corporate spin: high on hype (“technology solutions”), low on details (“our group does not come to this problem with answers”). Axios has a good breakdown of the whole thing.

OK, so yes, going back to how I opened this section, President Trump delivered his State of the Union address last night. I didn’t watch. (I feel the same way about SOTU speeches as I do about baseball games: I prefer to catch the highlight reel the next day that boils hours of fluff down to the actual 5-10 minutes of action.) President Trump did mention, as he has in the past, the problem of high drug costs. Which brings us to…

 

State level

LD 1406, a bill that would increase transparency in prescription drug prices in Maine, is headed for another work session this coming Tuesday, February 6th. This bill is, along with Medicaid expansion, CAHC’s biggest policy priority in the Legislature this session. I’ll be doing a deep dive on this bill and the overall problem of high drug costs in this Friday’s Coffee CAHC, but in a nutshell, this bill would help us expose and understand what leads drug prices to increase year after year. Without understanding some of the roots of the problem, it’s hard to craft effective solutions. This bill puts us on that path.

There were work sessions yesterday in the Insurance and Financial Services (IFS) committee on a pair of carried-over bills related to the ACA and putting some of the ACA’s consumer protections into state law. One of those bills (focused primarily on protections like not being able to deny coverage based on a pre-existing condition) was voted down by IFS, and the other (focused on insurance coverage and access for primary care benefits) passed unanimously. That was interesting, and unexpected.

CAHC supported both bills. They were, to some extent, defensive measures introduced last year as a way for Maine to “backstop” what we then saw as the potential full repeal of the ACA. I think full repeal is less likely now, but I still think it’s vital for states to make sure that their residents are protected from any fallout resulting from the unexpected whims of the federal government.

 

Would you like to know more?

Harvard Political Review wrote a very interesting piece drilling down on why prices for insulin – a nearly hundred-year-old drug – are skyrocketing. This piece underscores how shattered and dysfunctional our drug prices really are.

 

Until next time, friends, I remain,

-Steve

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