The Trump administration signaled Tuesday that it would allow states to impose work requirements on some adult Medicaid enrollees, a long-sought goal for conservatives that is strongly opposed by Democrats and advocates for the poor. Such a decision would be a major departure from federal policy. President Barack Obama’s administration ruled repeatedly that work requirements were inconsistent with Medicaid’s mission of providing medical assistance to low-income people. The announcement came from Seema Verma, the head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), who was scheduled to address the nation’s state Medicaid directors Tuesday. A press release issued in advance of the speech said allowing states to have work requirements is part of her plan to help give states more flexibility.
Few people were surprised last week when the Trump administration issued a rule to make it easier for some religious employers to opt out of offering no-cost prescription birth control to their female employees under the Affordable Care Act. But a separate regulation issued at the same time raised eyebrows. It creates a new exemption from the requirement that most employers offer contraceptive coverage. This one is for “non-religious organizations with sincerely held moral convictions inconsistent with providing coverage for some or all contraceptive services.”
So what’s the difference between religious beliefs and moral convictions? This story originally appeared on Kaiser Health News, a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.
Gov. Susana Martinez believes the health care overhaul bill that Senate Republicans are currently working on would hurt New Mexico and says they should instead work on a bipartisan effort. After NM Political Report and other outlets asked Martinez her stance on the Graham-Cassidy healthcare bill, Martinez’s office released a statement. Spokesman Joseph Cueto said it is “perfectly clear…that Obamacare is a complete disaster.”
“While it’s encouraging that Congress is working on a healthcare solution, the governor is concerned this bill could hurt New Mexico and still needs some work,” he said. “She believes we need a bipartisan approach that focuses on the insurance market to make health care affordable.”
Senators are expected to vote on the Graham-Cassidy bill, which is supported by President Donald Trump, next week. Efforts at a bipartisan health care effort ended this week as the possibility of the new bill’s passage became more likely.
Both of New Mexico’s U.S. senators support the “Medicare for all” legislation proposed by Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich each said Tuesday they would cosponsor the effort. “I believe that health care is a human right, and that all New Mexicans – and all Americans – should be able to see a doctor when they’re sick,” Udall said. “A hardworking single mother in New Mexico deserves the same quality health care for herself and her family as a multimillionaire CEO.
Maternity care is disappearing from America’s rural counties, and for the 28 million women of reproductive age living in those areas, pregnancy and childbirth are becoming more complicated — and more dangerous. That’s the upshot of a new report from the Rural Health Research Center at the University of Minnesota that examined obstetric services in the nation’s 1,984 rural counties over a 10-year period. In 2004, 45 percent of rural counties had no hospitals with obstetric services; by 2014, that figure had jumped to 54 percent. The decline was greatest in heavily black counties and in states with the strictest eligibility rules for Medicaid. The decrease in services has enormous implications for women and families, says Katy B. Kozhimannil, an associate professor in health policy who directs the Minnesota center’s research efforts.
Last week, 65 administration nominees — including four to Health and Human Services — sailed through the Senate confirmation process by unanimous vote without any debate. One candidate left out was Dr. Brett Giroir, a Texas physician, who is the president’s choice for assistant secretary of health. Now, shedding light on their reservations, Senate Democrats are saying that Giroir’s testimony before the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee left them skeptical that he would support women’s health programs, which they say are under threat. The Democrats are insisting on a roll call vote on the Senate floor — after the Senate reconvenes Sept. 5. The position for which Giroir is nominated includes oversight of the Office of Population Affairs, which administers Title X grants, and the Office of Adolescent Health, which oversees the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program.
Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains says they received enough donations to keep its Farmington health center open. Five months ago, the organization announced the Farmington location would be one of three in the state to close by this fall. “We cannot begin to express our gratitude to the people of Farmington and their commitment to reproductive health care access in New Mexico,” Vicki Cowart, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains said in a statement. “We know how important access to reproductive care is for our rural communities, and today we celebrate being able to keep this health center open, thus ensuring access to care for women, men, and young people in Farmington and the surrounding areas.”
The health center does not perform surgical abortions. In May, the organization announced it needed to close three health centers in New Mexico, including locations in Farmington, Albuquerque and Rio Rancho.
Not all drug prices are going up. Amid the public fury over the escalating costs of brand-name medications, the prices of generic drugs have been falling, raising fears about the profitability of major generic manufacturers. Last week, Teva Pharmaceuticals reported that it had missed analysts’ earnings estimates in the second quarter and planned to lay off 7,000 workers. Its share price plummeted 24 percent in one day as investors worried there was no end in sight. Share prices of other generic drugmakers also declined, as did those of wholesalers, which profit from the sales of generic drugs and have said they expect prices to continue declining.
The shrinking unemployment rate has been a healthy turn for people with job-based benefits. Eager to attract help in a tight labor market and unsure of Obamacare’s future, large employers are newly committed to maintaining coverage for workers and often their families, according to new research and interviews with analysts. Two surveys of large employers — one released Aug. 2 by consultancy Willis Towers Watson and the other out Tuesday from the National Business Group on Health, show companies continue to try to control costs while backing away from shrinking or dropping health benefits. NBGH is a coalition of large employers.
Amid all the turbulence over the future of the Affordable Care Act, one facet continues unchanged: President Donald Trump’s administration is penalizing more than half the nation’s hospitals for having too many patients return within a month. Medicare is punishing 2,573 hospitals, just two dozen short of what it did last year under former President Barack Obama, according to federal records released Wednesday. Starting in October, the federal government will cut those hospitals’ payments by as much as 3 percent for a year. Medicare docked all but 174 of those hospitals last year as well. The $564 million the government projects to save also is roughly the same as it was last year under Obama.