Daily on Healthcare: New Obamacare numbers show signups lagging last year’s pace

By | November 21, 2018

Be more of an insider. Get the Washington Examiner Magazine, Digital Edition now.

SIGN UP! If you’d like to continue receiving Washington Examiner’s Daily on Healthcare newsletter, SUBSCRIBE HERE: http://newsletters.washingtonexaminer.com/newsletter/daily-on-healthcare/

New Obamacare numbers show signups lagging last year’s pace. Signups for Obamacare plans have reached 1,924,476, lagging last year’s enrollment pace and offering fodder to Democrats who have accused the Trump administration of “sabotaging” the law. Around the same time last year, nearly 2.3 million people had signed up for health insurance coverage through the federal healthcare.gov website. That year’s total reflected signups over 18 days, and this year’s reflects 17 days. Democrats have accused the Trump administration of trying to sabotage Obamacare because it has cut the budget for navigators and advertisements on open enrollment, in addition to reducing the sign-up period. The tax bill that President Trump signed into law late last year also zeroed out a fine on the uninsured, meaning people will not be penalized beginning in 2019 if they choose to go uninsured. The Trump administration also is allowing people to buy coverage outside of Obamacare’s rules. It’s possible, as well, that people are choosing to purchase health insurance directly through an insurer instead of on the healthcare.gov website. Within the total signups, 1,467,569 customers were renewing customers who already have a plan through the exchange and 456,907 are new customers.  The healthcare.gov call center received 619,467 calls during the third week, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Welcome to Philip Klein’s Daily on Healthcare, compiled by Washington Examiner Executive Editor Philip Klein (@philipaklein), Senior Healthcare Writer Kimberly Leonard (@LeonardKL) and Healthcare Reporter Robert King (@rking_19).  Email dailyonhealthcare@washingtonexaminer.com for tips, suggestions, calendar items and anything else. If a friend sent this to you and you’d like to sign up, click here. If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email and we’ll add you to our list.

Publishing note: Daily on Healthcare will not publish Thursday, Nov. 22, or Friday, Nov. 23, in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday. We will resume our regular schedule on Monday Nov. 26.

What top House Democrats have in mind for healthcare. Healthcare policy in the House of Representatives is going to experience massive turnover when Democrats assume control in January. Top Democrats on key committees who have languished in the minority for eight years will be eager to try to oversee big drugmakers, protect Obamacare, and generally fight the Trump administration. Here are some of the likely key chairmen in the next Congress and their top priorities for healthcare.

Trump administration reapproves Kentucky’s Medicaid work requirement. The Trump administration announced Tuesday evening that it had reapproved a waiver that would require certain beneficiaries in Kentucky work as a condition of receiving healthcare coverage from Medicaid, five months after the initial plan was struck down by a judge. In the time since, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services opened a public comment period which allowed for feedback from various outside groups. Johnathan Monroe, CMS spokesman, said that agency officials had “worked diligently to analyze and consider the comments received” and determined the program would “promote the objectives of Medicaid.” The approval letter to Kentucky said that one of the purposes of Medicaid is to advance the health and wellness of the person receiving medical coverage or to help people become independent from the program. The waiver will add premiums for certain enrollees. It also will give people more access to treatment for addiction and provide $ 1,000 to help pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses. The program is expected to reduce Medicaid spending by $ 2 billion over five years, $ 300 million of which will come from state funds, according to the governor’s office.

Judge strikes down Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban. A federal judge struck down a law in Mississippi banning abortion after 15 weeks. U.S. District Judge Carlton Wayne Reeves ruled that the Mississippi law “unequivocally” violated the 14th Amendment, the portion of the Constitution that was used to justify Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court. Roe legalized abortion across the country for up until fetal viability, which is generally understood to be up to 24 weeks into a pregnancy. “Mississippi’s law violates Supreme Court precedent, and in doing so it disregards the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of autonomy for women desiring to control their own reproductive health,” Reeves, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, wrote in his opinion. He went on to ponder whether the state had intended to challenge Roe, noting that the Supreme Court has a different makeup under Trump. “If overturning Roe is the State’s desired result, the State will have to seek that relief from a higher court,” Reeves wrote. The Mississippi law, one of the most restrictive in the U.S., was signed by Republican Gov. Phil Bryant in March and immediately triggered a lawsuit from the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Mississippi has only one abortion clinic, known as Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which performs abortions up to 15 weeks into a pregnancy.

Doctors should prescribe more HIV-prevention medicines, panel says. Doctors should recommend preventive medication to all patients who are at high risk of getting HIV, an influential medical panel has advised for the first time. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent group of health experts, said that under the draft guidelines it issued Tuesday, as many as 1.2 million more people may take the drug called Truvada.

Court orders more detailed health warnings on cigarette packaging. Cigarette packets are set to carry more detailed labels to warn consumers that smoking causes health problems and tobacco companies purposefully make them addictive. Pursuant to a 2006 court order that required tougher labeling rules for cigarettes, companies must begin shipping packages to retailers with the new labels, known as “corrective statements,” by Wednesday. Up to now, packaging has included only a warning from the surgeon general about the health risks of smoking, but the new labels will be more extensive. The industry has several options to choose from, including warning people that it’s not easy to quit, that secondhand smoke is dangerous, or that “light” cigarettes aren’t less dangerous for their health. Other options warn consumers that smoking kills more people than murder, drugs, AIDS, suicide, car accidents, and alcohol combined, and that the tobacco companies intentionally use enough nicotine to “create and sustain addiction.”

CDC urges Americans to stop eating romaine lettuce after E. coli outbreak. Americans should stop eating romaine lettuce immediately because of an outbreak of E. coli that has sickened more than 30 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC issued the broad alert on Tuesday that the strain of E. coli has been reported across 11 states starting on Oct. 2. So far, 13 people have been hospitalized, but no one has died. The agency is calling for all consumers to throw out any type of romaine lettuce, even if some people didn’t get sick after eating it. This advice extends to all types of romaine such as whole heads of lettuce to bags of pre-cut lettuce. “If you do not know if the lettuce is romaine or whether a salad mix contains romaine, do not eat it, and throw it away,” CDC said. CDC is also telling restaurants and retailers not to sell any more romaine lettuce until more is learned about the outbreak.


The Intercept Lobbyist documents reveal health care industry battle plan against ‘Medicare for all’
Wall Street Journal Walgreens, Humana are in preliminary talks to take stakes of each other

Virginia Mercury Virginia’s Medicaid expansion drawing thousands more enrollees than initially projected

New York Daily News Medical community fires back at NRA after Chicago hospital shooting — ‘This is our lane’

NPR How do wishes granted to very sick kids affect their health?
Washington Post Some veterans with ALS were deprived of health care benefits, VA watchdog finds

New York Times How turkey trots became a Thanksgiving tradition


House and Senate in recess all week.

THURSDAY | Nov. 22

Thanksgiving holiday.

TUESDAY | Nov. 27

9 a.m. 1789 Massachusetts Ave NW. American Enterprise Institute event on “The new Medicare physician payment regulation: What does it mean for physicians and patients?” Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma to speak. Details.

Noon. 214 Massachusetts Ave NE. Heritage Foundation event on “Fetal tissue research: Antiquated and unethical?” Details.


8 a.m. Newseum. 555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. The Hill event on “Preparing for a Treatment: Alzheimer’s Diagnosis and Care.” Details.