It was a moment of genuine bipartisanship at the House Ways and Means Committee in October, as Democratic and Republican sponsors alike praised a bill called the “Restoring Access to Medication Act of 2019.”
The bill, approved by the panel on a voice vote, would allow consumers to use their tax-free flexible spending accounts or health savings accounts to pay for over-the-counter medications and women’s menstrual products. Assuming it ultimately finds its way into law, the measure would also represent the latest piece of the Affordable Care Act’s financing to be undone. Over-the-counter medication had been eligible for preferred tax status before the ACA. But that treatment was eliminated as part of a long list of new taxes and other provisions to generate revenue. The measures were aimed primarily at higher-income earners to pay the 10-year, roughly $1 trillion cost of the health law.
What will remain of the Affordable Care Act in a year or two? Maybe very little, some New Mexico lawmakers worry. While Democrats in the state House of Representatives have talked a lot about expanding access to Medicaid, many are also trying to hold the line on the landmark and controversial health care law also known as Obamacare, bracing for big changes as 18 attorneys general challenge its constitutionality in federal court. House Democrats are sponsoring legislation that would write several provisions of the Affordable Care Act into New Mexico law with hopes that no matter what happens at the federal level, the state can keep in place some of the standards for covering mental health care, for example, and protections for patients with pre-existing conditions. “We’re in that group,” said state Rep. Liz Thomson, D-Albuquerque, a breast cancer survivor whose son has autism.
Among the first things Democrats did after officially taking control of the House was to express support for efforts to appeal a Texas district court decision declaring the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional.
EDGEWATER PARK, N.J. — Not long ago many voters knew little about Tom MacArthur. A low-key moderate Republican congressman in a district that twice went for Barack Obama, he burnished his reputation as the guy who worked with Democrats to help rebuild in the years after Hurricane Sandy. Now, as he wages a bitter fight for re-election to a seat he won by 20 percentage points just two years ago, even some of his supporters have turned virulently against him. The reason? His new reputation as the turncoat whose legislation almost repealed the Affordable Care Act.
ByElisabeth Rosenthal and Shefali Luthra, Kaiser Health News |
After decades in the political wilderness, “Medicare-for-all” and single-payer health care are suddenly popular. The words appear in political advertisements and are cheered at campaign rallies — even in deep-red states. They are promoted by a growing number of high-profile Democratic candidates, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York and Rep. Beto O’Rourke in Texas. Republicans are concerned enough that this month President Donald Trump wrote a scathing op-ed essay that portrayed Medicare for all as a threat to older people and to American freedom. It is not that.
ByPhil Galewitz and Julie Appleby, Kaiser Health News |
After two years of double-digit price hikes, the average premium for individual health coverage on the federal health law’s insurance marketplace will drop by 1.5 percent for 2019, the Trump administration said Thursday. The announcement marked the first time average premiums have fallen since the exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act went into effect in 2014. It also comes during a bitter midterm congressional campaign season in which health care is a central issue following last year’s efforts by Republicans to repeal the ACA. Administration officials claimed credit for the price drop, saying it was due to their actions to make changes to the law. Health policy experts said it was a reaction to insurers’ huge profits following hefty premium increases on plans offered this year.
LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. — When Nikia Jackson needed to be screened for a sexually transmitted disease, she wanted a clinic that was reputable, quick and inexpensive. After searching online, Jackson, 23, ended up at the Obria Medical Clinics’ sparkling new facility in an office park in suburban Atlanta. She was unaware that the clinic does not offer condoms or other kinds of birth control beyond so-called natural family planning methods. Religious conservatives say these types of clinics are the future of women’s sexual health care in the United States.
When Tracy Deis decided in 2016 to transition from a full-time job to part-time contract work, the loss of her employer’s health insurance was not a major worry because she knew she could get coverage through the marketplace set up by the Affordable Care Act. But price was a big concern. “The ACA made it possible to make the switch in my life,” said Deis, 48, who lives in Minneapolis. But she quickly added, “I was really worried about the cost.”
Her anxiety was understandable. In Minnesota, the average cost of insurance in the state-run exchange soared 57 percent in 2017, after a 40 percent rise in 2016.
Reproductive healthcare and abortion access may be profoundly personal decisions, but changes to public policy in New Mexico could generate repercussions that extend far beyond the most private experiences of women across the state. According to recent analysis by the Guttmacher Institute, nearly one-in-four women in the United States have had or will have an abortion by age 45. And since Associate Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced in June that he would retire July 31, attention to a 50-year-old New Mexico law has intensified. Dormant since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in 1973, the statute would go back into effect if Roe is overturned, meaning anyone who performs an abortion in New Mexico could be charged with a 4th-degree felony. Read this story’s companion piece, “Midterms could be key, with New Mexico’s abortion rights protections at a crossroads,” here.
The social stigma attached to abortion means that many people don’t talk about it openly, said Planned Parenthood of New Mexico CEO Vicki Cowart in a recent interview, but there are millions of women for whom it has played a part in their personal and family histories.
Insurers will again be able to sell short-term health insurance good for up to 12 months under a proposed rule released Tuesday by the Trump administration that could further roil the marketplace. “We want to open up affordable alternatives to unaffordable Affordable Care Act policies,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. “This is one step in the direction of providing Americans health insurance options that are more affordable and more suitable to individual and family circumstances.”
The proposed rule said short-term plans could add more choices to the market at lower cost and may offer broader provider networks than Affordable Care Act plans in rural areas. But most short-term coverage requires answering a string of medical questions, and insurers can reject applicants with preexisting medical problems, which ACA plans cannot do. As a result, the proposed rule also noted that some people who switch to them from ACA coverage may see “reduced access to some services,” and “increased out of pocket costs, possibly leading to financial hardship.”
The directive follows an executive order issued in October to roll back restrictions put in place during the Obama administration that limited these plans to three months.