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!
115th Congress, 1st session
128th Maine Legislature, adjourned
Friday, November 17, 2017
It’s funny how, as I’ve gotten older, my feelings on the seasons have changed. Loved winter as a kid, but as an adult, forget it.
For one thing, snow as a kid was “FUN! Day off! Sledding! Hot chocolate!”, whereas an adult it’s “UGH. Shoveling. Dangerous driving conditions. Work piling up while I tackle what I can from home. Hot chocolate.”
But what bothers me more than anything is the darkness. Anybody else’s evening routine these days consist of: get home from work; put on jammies; struggle against urge to go to bed at 6pM?
Ah well. On the upside, it’s also stew season! So it ain’t all bad.
One quick Coffee CAHC delivery update! Given the holiday next week (and what we anticipate being a slow news pace), we’re only planning a Wednesday edition of the newsletter, which will probably be a little shorter than my typical wordy missives. We’ll be back on the regular twice-weekly schedule the week after!
So, “good” news first: Congress has gone on their Thanksgiving recess. That should give us a tiny break as far as “they might unravel everything any day now”. They’re out all of next week.
…aaaaaaaaaand I’m out of good news for you.
The House passed their version of the tax reform bill yesterday, surprising nobody. Their bill was not amended to include repeal of the individual mandate: it was a straight-up tax bill. Now, don’t get excited. That doesn’t mean that the House isn’t interested in the idea of merging the two, just that they didn’t put it in this version of this bill.
The Senate, meanwhile, is absolutely planning to throw repeal of the mandate into their version of the bill. That is, of course, where we all come in: time to stop this again, the way we’ve stopped it before. As I said on Wednesday, you know the drill. Call, write, e-mail your senators. Let them know that destroying America’s health care system was a terrible idea before and it’s still a terrible idea now.
In “news that got pushed aside on Wednesday because repeal all of a sudden showed up again”, we have a nominee to replace Tom Price as HHS Secretary: Alex Azar, a former pharmaceutical company executive.
In announcing this pick, President Trump said that Mr. Azar will somehow help lower drug costs. Color me skeptical. Fox watching the henhouse, quis custodiet ipsos custodes, biting the hand that feeds you, etc etc. That confirmation process will be proceeding in the weeks ahead.
Finally, an “update” – such as it is – on CHIP and FQHC funding. It still sounds like these will get wrapped up into a big end-of-year “CR”, or “continuing resolution” bill, that will deal with all sorts of topics. I haven’t seen or heard any other movement on either lately. Have you? Get in touch!
This column by Governor LePage seems to signal perhaps a very small and subtle shift in his tone regarding Medicaid expansion. To be clear, the numbers he’s throwing around still seem to have absolutely no basis in anything like reality, but hey, it’s a start.
Aaaaaand…I think that’s pretty much it at the state level? We’re weeks away from the Legislature reconvening, though, so expect to see a bit more action in this section soon.
Would you like to know more?
High-deductible health plans and “narrow networks” are two insurance-side mechanisms that get touted a lot as ways to control costs and rein in health care spending. I’m not a big fan of either. This gut-wrenching story from the Washington Post gets at the heart of some of the problems with skinny networks.
There’s another takeaway from that article, too – the massive, massive problem of how complicated our health system is to navigate. One of the consumers interviewed for the story is the director of Virginia’s Medicaid system, who hit wall after wall trying to find treatment for her privately-insured adult son.
I’m sorry, but if the person who directs a large state’s Medicaid program can’t navigate the system, what hope do the rest of us have? If you or somebody you know is hitting these kinds of issues here in Maine, of course, there’s always our HelpLine at 1-800-965-7476.
Until next time, friends, I remain,