State-by-state breakdown of 130 rural hospital closures

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/finance/state-by-state-breakdown-of-130-rural-hospital-closures.html

Rural Hospital Closures Hit Poor, Minority Communities Hardest ...

Nearly one in five Americans live in rural areas and depend on their local hospital for care. Over the past 10 years, 130 of those hospitals have closed.

Thirty-three states have seen at least one rural hospital shut down since 2010, and the closures are heavily clustered in states that have not expanded Medicaid under the ACA, according to the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research.

Twenty-one rural hospitals in Texas have closed since 2010, the most of any state. Tennessee has the second-most closures, with 13 rural hospitals shutting down in the past decade. In third place is Oklahoma with eight closures. 

Listed below are the 130 rural hospitals that have closed since Jan. 1, 2010, as tracked by the Sheps Center. For the purposes of its analysis, the Sheps Center defined a hospital closure as the cessation in the provision of inpatient services.

“We follow the convention of the Office of Inspector General that a closed hospital is ‘a facility that stopped providing general, short-term, acute inpatient care,'” reads a statement on the Sheps Center’s website. “We did not consider a hospital closed if it: merged with, or was sold to, another hospital but the physical plant continued to provide inpatient acute care, converted to critical access status, or both closed and reopened during the same calendar year and at the same physical location.”

As of June 8, all the facilities listed below had stopped providing inpatient care. However, some of them still offered other services, including outpatient care, emergency care, urgent care or primary care.

Alabama
SouthWest Alabama Medical Center (Thomasville)
Randolph Medical Center (Roanoke)
Chilton Medical Center (Clanton)
Florence Memorial Hospital
Elba General Hospital
Georgiana Medical Center

Alaska
Sitka Community Hospital

Arizona
Cochise Regional Hospital (Douglas)
Hualapai Mountain Medical Center (Kingman)
Florence Community Healthcare

Arkansas
De Queen Medical Center

California
Kingsburg Medical Center
Corcoran District Hospital
Adventist Health Feather River (Paradise)
Coalinga Regional Medical Center

Florida
Campbellton-Graceville Hospital
Regional General Hospital (Williston)
Shands Live Oak Regional Medical Center
Shands Starke Regional Medical Center

Georgia
Hart County Hospital (Harwell)
Charlton Memorial Hospital (Folkston)
Calhoun Memorial Hospital (Arlington)
Stewart-Webster Hospital (Richland)
Lower Oconee Community Hospital (Glenwood)
North Georgia Medical Center (Ellijay)

Illinois
St. Mary’s Hospital (Streator)

Indiana
Fayette Regional Health System

Kansas
Central Kansas Medical Center (Great Bend)
Mercy Hospital Independence
Mercy Hospital Fort Scott
Horton Community Hospital
Oswego Community Hospital
Sumner Community Hospital (Wellington)

Kentucky
Nicholas County Hospital (Carlisle)
Parkway Regional Hospital (Fulton)
New Horizons Medical Center (Owenton)
Westlake Regional Hospital (Columbia)

Louisiana
Doctor’s Hospital at Deer Creek (Leesville)

Maine
St. Andrews Hospital (Boothbay Harbor)
Southern Maine Health Care-Sanford Medical Center
Parkview Adventist Medical Center (Brunswick)

Maryland
Edward W. McCready Memorial Hospital (Crisfield)

Massachusetts
North Adams Regional Hospital

Michigan
Cheboygan Memorial Hospital

Minnesota
Lakeside Medical Center
Albany Area Hospital
Albert Lea-Mayo Clinic Health System
Mayo Clinic Health System-Springfield

Mississippi
Patient’s Choice Medical of Humphreys County (Belzoni)
Pioneer Community Hospital of Newton
Merit Health Natchez-Community Campus
Kilmichael Hospital
Quitman County Hospital (Marks)

Missouri
Sac-Osage Hospital (Osceola)
Parkland Health Center-Weber Road (Farmington)
Southeast Health Center of Reynolds County (Ellington)
Southeast Health Center of Ripley County (Doniphan)
Twin Rivers Regional Medical Center (Kennett)
I-70 Community Hospital (Sweet Springs)
Pinnacle Regional Hospital (Boonville)

Nebraska
Tilden Community Hospital

Nevada
Nye Regional Medical Center (Tonopah)

New York
Lake Shore Health Care Center
Moses-Ludington Hospital (Ticonderoga)

North Carolina
Blowing Rock Hospital
Vidant Pungo Hospital (Belhaven)
Novant Health Franklin Medical Center (Louisburg)
Yadkin Valley Community Hospital (Yadkinville)
Our Community Hospital (Scotland Neck)
Sandhills Regional Medical Center (Hamlet)
Davie Medical Center-Mocksville

Ohio
Physicians Choice Hospital-Fremont
Doctors Hospital of Nelsonville

Oklahoma
Muskogee Community Hospital
Epic Medical Center (Eufaula)
Memorial Hospital & Physician Group (Frederick)
Latimer County General Hospital (Wilburton)
Pauls Valley General Hospital
Sayre Community Hospital
Haskell County Community Hospital (Stigler)
Mercy Hospital El Reno

Pennsylvania
Saint Catherine Medical Center Fountain Springs (Ashland)
Mid-Valley Hospital (Peckville)
Ellwood City Medical Center
UPMC Susquehanna Sunbury

South Carolina
Bamberg County Memorial Hospital
Marlboro Park Hospital (Bennettsville)
Southern Palmetto Hospital (Barnwell)
Fairfield Memorial Hospital (Winnsboro)

South Dakota
Holy Infant Hospital (Hoven)

Tennessee
Riverview Regional Medical Center South (Carthage)
Starr Regional Medical Center-Etowah
Haywood Park Community Hospital (Brownsville)
Gibson General Hospital (Trenton)
Humboldt General Hospital
United Regional Medical Center (Manchester)
Parkridge West Hospital (Jasper)
Tennova Healthcare-McNairy Regional (Selmer)
Copper Basin Medical Center (Copperhill)
McKenzie Regional Hospital
Jamestown Regional Medical Center
Takoma Regional Hospital (Greeneville)
Decatur County General Hospital (Parsons)

Texas
Wise Regional Health System-Bridgeport
Shelby Regional Medical Center
Renaissance Hospital Terrell
East Texas Medical Center-Mount Vernon
East Texas Medical Center-Clarksville
East Texas Medical Center-Gilmer
Good Shepherd Medical Center (Linden)
Lake Whitney Medical Center (Whitney)
Hunt Regional Community Hospital of Commerce
Gulf Coast Medical Center (Wharton)
Nix Community General Hospital (Dilley)
Weimar Medical Center
Care Regional Medical Center (Aransas Pass)
East Texas Medical Center-Trinity
Little River Healthcare Cameron Hospital
Little River Healthcare Rockdale Hospital
Stamford Memorial Hospital
Texas General-Van Zandt Regional Medical Center (Grand Saline)
Hamlin Memorial Hospital
Chillicothe Hospital
Central Hospital of Bowie

Virginia
Lee Regional Medical Center (Pennington Gap)
Pioneer Community Hospital of Patrick County (Stuart)
Mountain View Regional Hospital (Norton)

West Virginia
Williamson Memorial Hospital
Fairmont Regional Medical Center

Wisconsin
Franciscan Skemp Medical Center (Arcadia)

 

 

 

 

Medicaid expansion key indicator for rural hospitals’ financial viability

https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/medicaid-expansion-rural-hospitals-health-affairs/579005/

Hospital Closures, Underfunded Health Centers In Ohio Valley ...

Dive Brief:

  • Struggling rural hospitals are faring better financially in states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, according to a new Health Affairs study examining 1,004 rural hospitals’ CMS cost reports submitted from 2011 to 2017.
  • Among rural, nonprofit critical access hospitals in states that expanded Medicaid, the median overall margin increased from 1.8% to 3.7%, while it dropped from 3.5% to 2.8% in states that did not expand the program.
  • Tax-exempt status played another key role in determining rural hospitals’ financial viability. During the study period, the median overall profit margin at nonprofit critical access hospitals rose from 2.5% to 3.2%, while it dropped among for-profit operators from 3.2% to 0.4%.

Dive Insight:

The unprecedented financial distress mega health systems are under amid the ongoing pandemic is all too familiar to rural hospitals.

These systems are often smaller, employing fewer specialists and less medical technology, thus limiting the variety of services they can provide and profit on. They remain the closest point of care for millions of Americans, yet face rising closures.

The good news is that most rural hospitals are nonprofit, the designation that fared best in Health Affairs’ six-year study. More than 80% of the 1,004 private, rural hospitals analyzed in the study were nonprofit, while 17% were for-profit.

But researchers found Medicaid expansion played a key role in rural hospitals’ financial viability during the study period, with closures occurring more often in the South than in other regions.

Thirty-seven states have expanded Medicaid under the ACA, but 14 have not, and a majority of them are concentrated in the southern U.S., according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

One of those states is Oklahoma, which on Monday withdrew its planned July 1 Medicaid expansion, citing a lack of funding.

Another factor researchers found positively associated with overall margins and financial viability was charge markups, or the charged amount for a service relative to the Medicare allowable cost. Hospitals with low-charge markups had median overall margins of 1.8%, while those with high-charge markups had margins at 3.5%.

The same is true for occupancy rates. In 2017, rural hospitals with low occupancy rates had median overall profit margins of 0.1% Those with high occupancy rates had margins of 4.7%.

That presents a unique challenge for rural hospitals. Reimbursements from public and private payers do not compensate for fixed costs associated with providing standby capacity, which is essential in rural communities, where few hospitals serve large geographic areas.

Since 1997, CMS has been granting rural hospitals — particularly those with 25 or fewer acute care inpatient beds and located more than 35 miles from another hospital — critical access status, reimbursing them at cost for treating Medicare patients.

In the Health Affairs study, critical access hospitals accounted for 21% of the rural hospital bed capacity, with the remaining 79% of bed capacity provided by noncritical access hospitals.

 

 

 

 

Insurers are refunding surplus revenues now, rather than later

https://www.healthcarefinancenews.com/news/insurers-are-refunding-surplus-revenues-now-rather-later?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiTldabE9UTTFZbU16TkRneSIsInQiOiI1djBwUWV6SVpzNlJtRUJEdXBEcEM1UkdGZWtvYTZpdkZ5V1NkTHhpNVFnVFwvR2FJSGlDTVVDcE5lTGtmTDhHY0hWQ05XU1NQNWt3UjRRYUtCOVZtS1ZoNG9SN2wxNU1xYmJVT1k5YWptY2hYVVBObCszNVhiREVFSERNT1hxRkMifQ%3D%3D

Why Your Health Insurer May Owe You Money - Consumer Reports

Insurers will be issuing a total of about $2.7 billion in refunds, estimates the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The COVID-19 pandemic’s postponement of elective surgeries and regular care has created a surplus in revenue for insurers due to lower spending.

Health plans are mandated to spend at least 80% of their revenues on medical care. When they make more than that, they have to give money back to the purchasers.

Insurers are doing this now, rather than later, according to the Advisory Board’s practice manager Rachel Sokol, who spoke during the company’s weekly meeting on the impact of COVID-19 to payers.

Insurers want to create immediate value for members, instead of waiting for 2021, she said.

“That’s why we’re seeing the premium discounts now,” Sokol said.

Among those insurers refunding money, UnitedHealthcare said it would provide more than $1.5 billion in initial assistance, including customer premium credits, because its members have been unable to access routine or planned care due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

UnitedHealthcare has seen a lower volume of medical care being delivered than it anticipated when it set premiums.

Commercial fully insured individual and employer customers will get credits ranging from 5% to 20% – depending upon the specific plan – which will be applied to premium billings in June.

WHY THIS MATTERS

Insurers are mandated to provide refunds, but also they want to motivate members to return for regular care, to prevent more costly and complex outcomes later.

While hospitals have taken a financial hit from COVID-19, the major health insurers have shown minimal impact.

In fact, insurers could see a benefit to earnings in 2020 as medical services decline, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

THE LARGER TREND

Under the Affordable Care Act, insurers are required to rebate some premiums to their customers if medical claims fall short of expectations, based on a three-year average of medical costs.

The Medical Loss Ratio of the Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies that cover individuals and small businesses to spend at least 80% of their premium income on healthcare claims and quality improvement, leaving the remaining 20% for administration, marketing, and profit.

The MLR threshold is higher for large group insured plans, which must spend at least 85% of premium dollars on healthcare and quality improvement, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Insurers may either issue rebates in the form of a premium credit or a check payment and, in the case of people with employer coverage, the rebate may be shared between the employer and the employee, Kaiser said.

Using preliminary data reported by insurers to state regulators and compiled by Market Farrah Associates, Kaiser estimates that insurers will be issuing a total of about $2.7 billion across all markets – nearly doubling the previous record high of $1.4 billion last year.

 

 

 

 

Insurers face uncertainty in setting 2021 premiums

https://www.healthcarefinancenews.com/news/insurers-face-uncertainty-setting-2021-premiums?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiTldabE9UTTFZbU16TkRneSIsInQiOiI1djBwUWV6SVpzNlJtRUJEdXBEcEM1UkdGZWtvYTZpdkZ5V1NkTHhpNVFnVFwvR2FJSGlDTVVDcE5lTGtmTDhHY0hWQ05XU1NQNWt3UjRRYUtCOVZtS1ZoNG9SN2wxNU1xYmJVT1k5YWptY2hYVVBObCszNVhiREVFSERNT1hxRkMifQ%3D%3D

What To Do When Faced With Career Uncertainty

Insurers need to project the future cost of delayed elective procedures and total expenses of COVID-19 care.

While health insurers have saved money by the cancellation of elective surgeries and many are currently refunding excess revenue under the Medical Loss Ratio, premiums for the 2021 plan year are still in question.

There is a lot of uncertainty, America’s Health Insurance Plans said. Without comprehensive data, insurers are working to estimate 2021 healthcare costs and must base their rates on projected costs, AHIP explained in an infographic.

It is too soon to know what the real healthcare costs of COVID-19 will be. Also, delayed elective and non-urgent care will likely be delivered – and paid for – later.

That care could be more complex and costly because it was delayed, AHIP said.

WHY THIS MATTERS

Insurers are working to meet state deadlines to file 2021 premiums in the individual market.

THE LARGER TREND

Federal law requires insurers to spend 80-85 cents of every premium dollar on medical services and care. The rest, under the Medical Loss Ratio, may go towards administrative expenses, regulatory costs, federal and state taxes, customer service and other expenses.

The COVID-19 pandemic’s postponement of elective surgeries and regular care has created a surplus in revenue for insurers due to lower spending, which many are refunding now.

ON THE RECORD

“COVID-19 has had a very real impact on the economic, physical, and mental health of millions of Americans,” said Jeanette Thornton, senior vice president of Product, Employer, and Commercial Policy at AHIP.  “Our members are working through this uncertainty to strengthen access to affordable care as the fight against the coronavirus continues. COVID-19 dramatically changed the healthcare landscape–in 2020 and for years to come.

 

 

 

 

COVID-19, Unemployment Compensation, and State Medicaid Expansion Decisions

https://www.rwjf.org/en/library/research/2020/05/covid-19-unemployment-compensation-and-state-medicaid-expansion-decisions.html?utm_source=The+Fiscal+Times&utm_campaign=04962bd706-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2020_05_29_09_07&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_714147a9cf-04962bd706-390702969

COVID-19, Unemployment Compensation, and State Medicaid Expansion ...

Some Workers Losing Jobs and Health Insurance Remain Ineligible for Subsidized Coverage.

Store closed sign.

People who have lost jobs due to COVID-19 and live in states that haven’t expanded Medicaid are at a disadvantage when it comes to accessing affordable health insurance coverage.

The Issue

More than 70 percent of the 7.4 million workers with pre-pandemic employer-based insurance through industries now vulnerable to high rates of unemployment were found to be eligible for some assistance with health insurance (Medicaid or marketplace subsidies) if they lost their jobs. However, eligibility differs significantly between workers in states that have and have not expanded Medicaid.

Authors expand upon earlier work to show how varied levels of unemployment insurance provided through the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program affects eligibility for subsidized coverage.

Key Findings

Authors find that whether unemployment compensation is included in determining eligibility for Medicaid and Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace subsidies affects workers living in states that expanded Medicaid differently than those living in states that do not.

  • If the additional federal unemployment compensation was not used to determine eligibility for health insurance assistance, 78 percent of expansion state workers in the most vulnerable industries would be eligible for assistance compared to 59 percent of their counterparts in the 15 nonexpansion states.

  • Under current law, more than 70 percent of expansion and nonexpansion state workers with pre-pandemic employer-based insurance through industries now vulnerable to high rates of unemployment would be eligible for some assistance with health insurance if they lost their jobs.

Conclusion

The current limits on marketplace subsidies mean that fewer workers are likely to be eligible for financial assistance in getting or maintaining health insurance coverage. At the same time, additional funds could help them meet other pressing needs. This research suggests that eligibility for financial assistance above 400 percent of the federal poverty level under current rules would address this problem.

About the Urban Institute

The nonprofit Urban Institute is dedicated to elevating the debate on social and economic policy. For nearly five decades, Urban scholars have conducted research and offered evidence-based solutions that improve lives and strengthen communities across a rapidly urbanizing world. Their objective research helps expand opportunities for all, reduce hardship among the most vulnerable, and strengthen the effectiveness of the public sector. Visit the Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center for more information specific to its staff and its recent research.  

 

 

 

Insurers continue to pay rebates while providers struggle

https://mailchi.mp/f2774a4ad1ea/the-weekly-gist-may-22-2020?e=d1e747d2d8

Reform Brings More Health Insurance Rebates | Bankrate.com

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan became the latest health insurer to announce plans to refund money to its enrollees, as reimbursement for healthcare services dropped in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, with many hospitals and physicians curtailing operations. The company will return $100M to enrollees, in the form of premium discounts and refunds, and said it might increase that amount later in the year depending on how quickly health spending picks up again.

UnitedHealthcare (UHC), Cigna, and Humana are among the other insurers who have recently announced similar plans, with UHC alone slated to give back $1.5B to purchasers. Under the Affordable Care Act, plans must spend between 80 and 85 percent of the premiums they collect on medical care, depending on the segment of the market they cover, and must return excess profits to purchasers if they do not. Insurers are getting ahead of this requirement by returning money now to their employer and individual-market customers.

Meanwhile, some industry observers have begun to question why insurers, who have weathered the pandemic in good financial shape, are not spending more to stabilize the operations of struggling hospitals and physicians in their networks. For instance, Harvard researchers Leemore Dafny and Michael McWilliams proposed this week that insurers extend a “primary care boost” of 50 percent to their payments to doctors through the end of this year. Getting plans to act in concert to support providers will prove to be challenging, of course, and the temptation to free-ride on others’ generosity and instead “spend” excess premium dollars to return cash to customers may prove too strong for its public relations and loyalty benefits.

Or perhaps there are more Machiavellian motives at play: allowing physician practices to suffer financially could result in lower practice valuations, as insurers set their sights on further “vertical integration” plays in the months to come.

 

 

 

Fighting for Coverage

https://www.managedhealthcareexecutive.com/news/fighting-coverage?rememberme=1&elq_mid=12155&elq_cid=876742&GUID=A13E56ED-9529-4BD1-98E9-318F5373C18F

Fighting for Coverage | Managed Healthcare Executive

One of the main goals of the ACA, sometimes referred to as Obamacare, was to provide affordable health insurance to every American.

The law’s passage in 2010 made it possible for nearly 54 million Americans—previously denied coverage due to pre-existing medical conditions—to purchase coverage, as well as landmark provisions to protect those who developed an expensive medical condition while insured from being unexpectedly dropped by their health plan.

By all accounts, such provisions helped a record number of Americans procure medical insurance coverage—and, by extension, reduce healthcare costs and avoid medical bankruptcies.

Yet, with the elimination of the individual mandate penalty in 2017, and other policy changes that have forced up the cost of premiums, many Americans are looking for options off the healthcare exchange.

One such option is the short-term limited duration insurance (STLDI) plan, loosely defined as bare bones medical coverage that can last up to 12 months with the potential for renewal. Managed Healthcare Executive® Editorial Advisor Margaret Murray, chief executive officer of the Association for Community Affiliated Plans (ACAP), said such plans “are not really insurance,”—and refers to them as “junk insurance.” With a new 2018 HHS rule that dramatically expands access to this type of coverage, she worries that their availability will hurt consumers.

“Insurance brokers may offer these plans to consumers and those consumers may not realize that they largely reverse ACA protections regarding pre-existing conditions and coverage limits,” she says. “These plans don’t cover what you think they will cover, the insurance companies can cancel your policy at any time, and they can deny your access to maternity care and certain drugs. It’s not really major medical insurance and it’s not always easy for your average consumer to see that.”

Changing regulations

The Trump Administration contends, with rising insurance premiums, that such short-term plans make health insurance more affordable for the average American.

Cathryn Donaldson, a spokesperson for America’s Health Insurance Plans, a health insurance trade association, says such plans “can provide a temporary bridge for those who are going through a life transition or gap in coverage such as having a baby or changing jobs.”

Yet, Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation, says STLDI plans embody the old adage about getting what you pay for. STLDI are not required to comply with many of the ACA’s most important protections, which means insurance companies can exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions, charge higher premiums based on health status, impose annual and/or lifetime caps, and opt out of coverage for things like maternity care or mental health treatment. They can also revoke coverage at will.

“Under the ACA, it used to be that short term and minimum essential coverage [MEC] policies had to have a prominent warning printed on the front place that said, if you buy this, you are not getting full coverage and may even owe a tax penalty,” she explains. “Those warnings are no longer there and that’s of concern.”

Furthermore, late last year, HHS put forth a final rule extending the duration of STLDI from a mere three months up to 364 days. In addition, insurers can offer renewals and extensions for up to three years. What is even more concerning, Murray says, is the current Administration is now actively promoting the use of private web broker sites to market STLDI. This can make it more difficult for consumers to understand which plans offer comprehensive medical coverage and which are the riskier STLDI plans.

“The current administration says such plans offer consumers more affordable options—and more choice,” Murray explains. “But the marketing for these plans is really disingenuous. It’s not just that they are just short-term. They don’t cover what people think they will cover. They are very profitable for insurance companies. But they can be very costly for consumers, who likely won’t realize they don’t have comprehensive coverage until they are sick or injured.”

The fall-out

Over the past few months, several high-profile publications like Consumer Reports and the Washington Post have printed stories about the dangers, and unexpected costs, of STLDI for consumers.

“It’s like you are in the market for a car and someone offers you a really affordable roller-skate,” says Pollitz. “But a roller-skate is not the same thing as a car. It’s not going to get you as far if you really need to travel. And it’s going to cost you more in the long run.”

Murray also cautions more widespread adoption of such plans can affect the entire insurance market, siphoning cost-conscious consumers from risk pools and driving up premium costs for everyone.

“There are always some young invincibles, who think they won’t get sick—and there are some invincibles, too—and they will be attracted by the lower premiums,” she says. “But in doing so, that will leave people who are sicker to pay higher rates by moving people out of the ACA marketplace.”

That’s one reason why ACAP, as well as six other health organizations, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on September 14, 2018 in order to roll back the new STLDI rule and stop the expansion of such plans. Murray said the HHS rule violates the ACA, “undercutting plans that comply” with the still active legislation. They argue the Trump Administration is using these new rules to try to overturn the ACA—which they have not yet been able to successfully repeal in Congress.

“We thought this was important enough that it was worth suing the federal government in order to try and stop it,” she says. “We had hoped to get a summary judgment last year because we wanted to stop the spread of STLDI plans for the 2020 open enrollment. Unfortunately, we didn’t get that. The judge ruled against us. But we are appealing it—and the hope is that we will have a decision to stop these things being sold in 2021.

The take-home message

Donaldson says it is vital the healthcare community educate consumers about the risks of STLDI plans and make sure they are better aware of what sort of comprehensive plans are available on the Healthcare.gov marketplace.

“While alternative plans such as association health plans and STLDI may present more affordable premiums, they are not a replacement for comprehensive coverage and may not cover the treatments or prescriptions an individual may need throughout the year,” she says.

Pollitz agrees.

“We understand that life happens and there may be all manner of reasons why you are separated from coverage,” she says. “But it is becoming harder and harder to distinguish these plans from real coverage especially now that they are now being aggressively marketed to people all over the country. And it’s vital that people understand that 90% of consumers will play less than the listed price on Healthcare.gov marketplace because they qualify for subsidies. It really does pay to take the time to look before you sign up for one of these short-term plans.”

 

 

 

 

All 50 states have partially reopened; U.S. death toll surpasses 90,000

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/05/20/coronavirus-update-us/?utm_campaign=wp_post_most&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&wpisrc=nl_most

NC coronavirus update May 18: Wake County leaders meet to discuss ...

Ready or not, the United States is reopening. All 50 states have started easing coronavirus-related restrictions — even though many of them do not meet federal benchmarks — leading public health experts to warn that a new surge of infections could be imminent.

As the U.S. death toll surpassed 90,000, White House officials continued to defend the push to reopen and optimistically predicted a swift economic recovery. As part of the focus on states’ efforts to revive their economies, Vice President Pence on Wednesday traveled to Florida while Trump was set to host the governors of Arkansas and Kansas at the White House.

Here are some significant developments:

  • Trump ramped up his rhetoric against China, claiming on Twitter that the nation’s “incompetence” was responsible for “this mass Worldwide killing!” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also denounced China as a “brutal authoritarian regime” and described its relationship with the director of the World Health Organization as “troubling.”
  • A worker at a mink farm in the Netherlands may have contracted the novel coronavirus from an animal there, the country’s agricultural minister said. If confirmed, this is would be first recorded incident of animal-to-human transmission. 
  • A church in Houston and another in Georgia are closing for a second time after faith leaders and congregants tested positive for the virus shortly after the two churches reopened.
  • The president drew criticism for saying Tuesday it’s “a badge of honor” that America leads the world with more than 1.5 million confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus because “it means our testing is much better.” The United States has more than 30 percent of the world’s known coronavirus infections but accounts for less than 5 percent of the global population.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention laid out a detailed, delayed road map for reopening schools, child-care facilities, restaurants and mass transit, weeks after governors began opening states on their own terms.
  • The president privately expressed opposition to extending unemployment benefits for workers affected by the pandemic.

 

 

 

 

States brace for ‘nearly certain’ Medicaid budget shortfalls amid COVID-19

https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/states-brace-for-nearly-certain-medicaid-budget-shortfalls-amid-covid-19/578120/

Coronavirus updates: Virus reaches all 50 states, stock futures fall

Dive Brief:

  • Most states with budget projections expect Medicaid shortfalls due to rising spending as more people lose jobs and enroll into the safety net insurance for low-income Americans due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation survey.
  • Almost all states with enrollment projections and more than half with spending projections expect program growth to surpass pre-pandemic estimates. Nearly all states anticipate growth will accelerate even more in the 2021 fiscal year, KFF found. As a result of that growth, 17 of 19 states with budget projections report a shortfall is “nearly certain” or “likely” for the upcoming fiscal year.
  • The survey comes as Congress once again considers raising the federal match rate for Medicaid in the $3 trillion Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, passed by the House of Representatives on Friday.​

Dive Insight:

Medicaid is often the top line spending item in state budgets, sending states scrambling for ways to reduce spend in the safety net health insurance program, including controversial block grants for funding.

At the start of the 2020 fiscal year, states anticipated modest Medicaid spending growth, and flat enrollment growth due to the strong economy. That forecast quickly shifted as the coronavirus spread in the U.S., which lost some 21 million jobs in April as businesses shutter their doors in compliance with stay-at-home orders, sending the unemployment rate to 15%.  

Because the U.S. generally couples coverage to employment, skyrocketing job loss could make an estimated 17 million people newly eligible for Medicaid and 6 million eligible for subsidies in the Affordable Care Act marketplaces by January 2021.

Medicaid officials from 38 states shared their budget projections with KFF for the survey. States that did not respond were still gathering data about the coronavirus or didn’t have updated enrollment or spending projections for the 2020 or 2021 fiscal years, KFF researchers Robin Rudowitz and Elizabeth Hinton said.

Thirty-two of 34 states with enrollment projections think enrollment will exceed initial projections in 2020, and 30 of 31 states anticipate that growth in 2021 will outpace the current fiscal year.

States are more mixed on spending projections. Over half of states with projections, 18 of 32, expect 2020 Medicaid spending to exceed pre-pandemic estimates. Eight states anticipate no change, and the remaining six project slightly lowered spending due to lower healthcare utilization as non-essential services have largely ground to a halt.

State Medicaid officials are more in lockstep when it comes to 2021 spending projections. Nearly all states with projections — 29 of 30 — think Medicaid spending rates in 2021 will increase over 2020.

Without greater support from the federal government, the survey hints states will face significant spending cuts for Medicaid for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1 for most states. Multiple groups, including the National Governors Association and the National Association of State Medicaid Directors, have called for a higher federal match rate.

One of the first legislative packages designed to mitigate the fallout of COVID-19, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act passed March 18, authorized a 6.2 percentage point increase in the rate for Medicaid if states meet certain requirements. States can’t increase premiums or restrict eligibility standards and must cover COVID-19 testing and treatment without cost-sharing.

The HEROES Act passed by Democrats in the House on Friday would increase the match rate by 14 percentage points from July 1, 2020, through June 30, 2021, along with benchmarking an additional $100 billion for providers.

However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and President Donald Trump have said they’re in no rush to pass another round of legislation adding to the more than $3 trillion Congress has approved so far.

 

 

 

 

The coronavirus economy could make a Medicare buy-in more popular

https://www.axios.com/coronavirus-economy-unemployment-medicare-health-insurance-85d23c97-4ad6-486d-b081-a46bdd2b894b.html

Coronavirus-driven layoffs may boost calls for a Medicare buy-in ...

The economic disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic could help create a much stronger push to let some older Americans buy into Medicare.

By the numbers: 2.4 million adults between the ages of 55 and 64 lost their jobs just since March, bringing the unemployment rate in this group to 12.5% — up from 3.4% in March.

Between the lines: Many of these people will struggle to find affordable coverage, and a slow recovery will leave many without job-based health coverage for a long time.

  • Medicaid will cover many of the newly uninsured, though not in states that haven’t expanded the program. The Affordable Care Act will help many others maintain coverage, but those plans often come with high deductibles. COBRA is available to people who lost jobs that offered insurance, but it’s often prohibitively expensive.

Millions of uninsured 55-65 year-olds could add new urgency to calls for a Medicare buy-in if Democrats control the White House and Congress in 2021.

  • Narrower options consistently poll better than more sweeping expansions of public coverage, and older adults are a politically powerful group.

Where it stands: The leading Medicare buy-in plan in Congress would allow people who are older than 50 to purchase Medicare coverage, with a subsidy for low-income enrollees similar to the subsidies in the Affordable Care Act.

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden has proposed a different twist: He would simply lower Medicare’s eligibility age from 65 to 60, without a buy-in.

Yes, but: All the old fault lines would still be at play if such an effort got serious consideration.

  • Some Democrats prefer Medicare for All. Republicans and hospitals have typically opposed all Medicare expansions.

The bottom line: The more dire the economic and health insurance circumstances of 55-64 year olds turns out to be, the greater the urgency for an early -in to Medicare is likely to become.