How Obamacare, Medicare and ‘Medicare For All’ muddy the campaign trail

The health care debate has Democrats on Capitol Hill and the presidential campaign trail facing renewed pressure to make clear where they stand: Are they for “Medicare for All”? Or will they take up the push to protect the Affordable Care Act? Obamacare advocates have found a powerful ally in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who in a recent “60 Minutes” appearance said that concentrating on the health law is preferable to Medicare for All. She argued that since the ACA’s “benefits are better” than those of the existing Medicare program, implementing Medicare for All would mean changing major provisions of current Medicare, which covers people 65 and up as well as those with disabilities. This talking point — one Pelosi has used before — seems tailor-made for the party’s establishment.

State aims to halt Medicaid copays and premiums

The New Mexico Human Services Department is taking steps to reverse a number of Medicaid policies enacted by former Gov. Susana Martinez that state officials say would create unnecessary financial strain on hundreds of thousands of low-income patients and limit access to medical services and prescription drugs. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Wednesday she has directed the agency to seek approval from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to eliminate $8 copayments for patients receiving nonemergency services at hospital emergency departments or purchasing brand-name drugs, and $10 monthly premiums for about 50,000 adults covered by Medicaid under expanded eligibility rules. Both cost-share policies for patients in the state’s Medicaid program, called Centennial Care, were set to go into effect March 1. The copays would have effected about 650,000 people, according to a news release issued by Human Services spokeswoman Jodi McGinnis Porter. The agency sent a letter Tuesday to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, asking to halt those policies as well as a policy limiting eligibility for retroactive Medicaid benefits, which took effect Jan.

Heinrich, Udall cosponsor Medicare buy-in bill

Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall support a Medicare buy-in bill that would allow individuals and companies to buy into the federally-run health care program, the latest bill to address healthcare introduced by Democrats that has little chance to pass in the Republican-controlled Congress. Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, and Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, introduced the legislation this week along with nine co-sponsors including the two New Mexico Democrats. Sponsors of the bill say it will pay for itself through premiums and that it would drive down private insurance premiums because of the new competition. The Murphy-Merkley bill, dubbed the Choose Medicare Act, would give both individuals and companies the option of buying health insurance coverage through a Medicare plan instead of private insurance.

Congress tackles the opioid epidemic. But how much will it help?

The nation’s opioid epidemic has been called today’s version of the 1980s AIDS crisis. In a speech Monday, President Donald Trump pushed for a tougher federal response, emphasizing a tough-on-crime approach for drug dealers and more funding for treatment. And Congress is upping the ante, via a series of hearings — including one scheduled to last Wednesday through Thursday — to study legislation that might tackle the unyielding scourge, which has cost an estimated $1 trillion in premature deaths, health care costs and lost wages since 2001. Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician by training and the health commissioner for hard-hit Baltimore, said Capitol Hill has to help communities at risk of becoming overwhelmed. “We haven’t seen the peak of the epidemic.

Udall, Heinrich back the Sanders ‘Medicare for all’ effort

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.

Under Trump, hospitals face same penalties embraced by Obama

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.