Several states have begun the herculean task of redetermining how many of an estimated 85 million Americans currently receiving health coverage through the Medicaid program are still eligible. To receive federal covid-19 relief funds, states were required to keep enrollees covered during the pandemic. As many as 15 million people could be struck from the program’s rolls — many of whom are still eligible, or are eligible for other programs and need to be steered to them.
Meanwhile, the trustees of the Medicare program report that its Hospital Insurance Trust Fund should remain solvent until 2031, three years longer than it projected last year. That allows lawmakers to continue to put off what are likely to be politically unpleasant decisions, although they will eventually have to deal with Medicare’s underlying financial woes (and those of Social Security).
This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of KHN, Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, Amy Goldstein of The Washington Post, and Rachel Roubein of The Washington Post.
Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:
- The Medicaid “unwinding” is likely to strip health coverage not just from millions of people who are no longer eligible for the program, but also from millions of people who still are. States are supposed to take their time reevaluating eligibility, but some are rushing to disenroll people.
- Another complication in an already complicated task is that many Medicaid workers hired during the pandemic have never actually redetermined Medicaid eligibility for anyone, because states had been required to keep people who qualified on the program.
- Grimly, some of the extra years of solvency gained in the Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund are a result of pandemic deaths in the 65-and-older population.
- The Department of Health and Human Services has issued payment rules for Medicare Advantage Plans for 2024. The agency ended up conceding at least somewhat to private plans that for years have been receiving more than they should have from the U.S. Treasury. The new rules will work to shrink those overpayments going forward, but not try to recoup those from years past.
- The situation with “first-dollar coverage” of preventive services by commercial health plans is becoming a bit clearer following last week’s decision in Texas that part of the Affordable Care Act’s preventive services mandate is unconstitutional. Judge Reed O’Connor (who in 2018 ruled the entire health law unconstitutional) issued a nationwide stay on coverage requirements from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, saying it is a volunteer organization not subject to the oversight of the Health and Human Services secretary. The federal government is already appealing that ruling.
- But O’Connor’s decision is not quite as sweeping as first thought. He banned required coverage only of the task force’s recommendations made after March 23, 2010 — the day the ACA was signed into law. Earlier recommendations stand. O’Connor also did not strike preventive services recommended by the Health Resources and Services Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, since those agencies are overseen by an official appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
- In abortion news, the liberal candidate for a Supreme Court seat in Wisconsin, Janet Protasiewicz, defeated her conservative opponent to switch the majority on the court from 4-3 conservative to 4-3 liberal. That ideological shift is likely to preserve abortion rights in the state, and possibly stem the ability of the GOP legislature to continue to draw maps that favor Republicans.
- Meanwhile, states in the South are continuing to pull back on abortion access. The Florida legislature is moving rapidly on a bill that would ban the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy, while in North Carolina, a single legislator’s switch from Democrat to Republican has given the latter a supermajority in the legislature large enough to override any veto of the Democratic governor, Roy Cooper.
Also this week, Rovner interviews Daniel Chang, who reported and wrote the latest KHN-NPR “Bill of the Month” feature about a child who had a medical bill sent to collections before he started to learn to read. If you have an outrageous or exorbitant medical bill you want to share with us, you can do that here.
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Plus, for “extra credit,” the panelists suggest health policy stories they read this week that they think you should read, too:
Julie Rovner: New York Magazine’s “The Shared Anti-Trans and Anti-Abortion Playbook,” by Irin Carmon.
Alice Miranda Ollstein: The Los Angeles Times’ “Horrifying Stories of Women Chased Down by the LAPD Abortion Squad Before Roe vs. Wade,” by Brittny Mejia.
Rachel Roubein: KHN’s “‘Hard to Get Sober Young’: Inside One of the Country’s Few Recovery High Schools,” by Stephanie Daniel of KUNC.
Amy Goldstein: The Washington Post’s “After Decades Under a Virus’s Shadow, He Now Lives Free of HIV,” by Mark Johnson.
Also mentioned in this week’s podcast:
- Stat’s “Denied by AI: How Medicare Advantage Plans Use Algorithms to Cut Off Care for Seniors in Need,” by Casey Ross and Bob Herman.
- ProPublica’s “How Cigna Saves Millions by Having Its Doctors Reject Claims Without Reading Them,” by Patrick Rucker, Maya Miller, and David Armstrong.
- The Atlantic’s “There’s No Such Thing as a Casual Interaction With Your Doctor Anymore,” by Zoya Qureshi.
- Politico’s “Democrats Want to Restore Roe. They’re Divided on Whether to Go Even Further,” by Alice Miranda Ollstein and Megan Messerly.
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