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Coffee CAHC policy round-up: October 27, 2017

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, 1st session

128th Maine Legislature, adjourned


Friday, October 27, 2017


Umm, everybody feel like they got enough rain the past few days? Holy mackerel. That was nuts!

In unrelated news, Stranger Things season 2 is out today. Anybody else gonna binge the entire thing over the weekend? (…or just tonight?)


National level

As we barrel toward the end of the year, Congress seems to be dragging its feet on doing much of anything productive.

I’m specifically talking about passing bills to fund both CHIP and federally qualified health centers, but let’s throw ACA stabilization in there, too.

This is, frankly, ridiculous.

Congress spent the first nine months of this year futilely bashing their heads against their failed ACA repeal-and-replace bills. After failing to advance that goal, they seem to have shrugged, thrown their hands up, and pivoted to tax reform.

The damage they are doing by refusing to act is, of course, devastating not just in dollars, but in lives. CHIP lapsing in states means kids going without health coverage. Whiffing on FQHC funding puts primary care and other vital health services in jeopardy for millions of Americans. Refusing to stabilize the Marketplaces means…well, you’ve heard me blast on about that one enough at this point, probably, but “it ain’t good” kinda sums it up.

To say this is frustrating is an understatement. We are ten months in to this Congress and this new Administration, and so far the message we are getting – not only from their inaction, but from their months of tilting at repeal-and-replace windmills, and their brand new budget outline that would cruelly dismantle huge swaths of our health care system – is that they have no interest in keeping you covered or healthy, but instead are content to twiddle their thumbs while people struggle to make ends meet.

I know that this is a little bit more editorialized than the norm for this section, but I’m frustrated by it all. This is nuts. You know how many times Congress has let CHIP funding lapse before? Zero. ZERO. Never. It’s never happened.* Because every single time, there was a recognition that this was American lives on the line, and it was too important to screw up. Not this time, though! (Also worth noting that CHIP and FQHC funding have always enjoyed robust bipartisan support. These are not controversial programs.)

And the apparent lack of urgency in Congress is, to be blunt, shameful. Which is not to say that some members aren’t trying to push these issues forward, but until Speaker Ryan, Majority Leader McConnell, and President Trump decide that the wellbeing of their constituents is worth spending a few moments on, it’s all kinda just sitting there.

So, you know the drill. You know how we stopped repeal-and-replace? We reached out to our members and helped them understand the stakes. I think it’s time for us to call Congress again and tell them that inaction is not an option when lives are on the line. They need to fund CHIP, fund our health centers, and pass Alexander-Murray.

Enough is enough.

*It may be the same for FQHCs, but I couldn’t find an answer on that definitively: if you know, get in touch!


State level

Speaking of “enough is enough” and looking for a health care win…

We are now down to about a week and a half before election day on November 7th, when Mainers will go to the polls to decide on several referendum questions. Question 2 on the ballot, of course, asks whether or not we want to take a boatload of federal money to provide health insurance coverage to the 70,000 working-class Mainers who currently have no access to it.

You know how we feel: we’re all for it, which is why we were one of the earliest endorsers of the Yes on 2 campaign.

We’re not the only ones. In addition to the other endorsing organizations (including groups such as the Maine Small Business Coalition, Maine Hospital Association, and Maine Medical Association, among dozens of others), both the Portland Press Herald and the Bangor Daily News ran strong editorials in support of the question. You can check them out at the links.

If you’re interested in making sure that tens of thousands of people across our state have the chance to get access to health coverage and health care, find out more about the campaign and how to support it between now and November 7th.

In other news…as expected, getting new bills for the upcoming “short session” through the Legislative Council was a heavy lift. Not that many made it through. You can see the whole list here of what got an initial thumbs-up. Legislators who tried to get something in now have a chance to appeal these first-round denials.


Would you like to know more?

Here’s another great editorial laying out the facts and what’s at stake with Question 2 on November 7th.

Apparently, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that CVS Health is in talks to buy Aetna. WSJ is behind a paywall, but Axios has some details.

Taking health-news-about-companies-that-start-with-an-A a little further, there are new reports, following months of rumors, that Amazon is taking some concrete steps toward getting into the pharmacy game.


Until next time, friends, I remain,


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