The fight over preexisting conditions is back. Here’s why the Obamacare battle won’t end.

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/6/11/17441858/obamacare-repeal-debate-lawsuit

 

There is a persistent divide in the US: Is insurance a privilege to be earned through hard work? Or is it a right?

President Trump and Republicans are so committed to killing Obamacare they’ve decided, just months before the midterm elections, to take aim at the most popular part of the law: coverage for preexisting conditions.

The Trump administration signed on to a long-shot lawsuit this week that would overturn the parts of the law that require insurers to cover preexisting conditions and not charge more for them.

The lawsuit, which you can read more about from Vox’s Dylan Scott, is, in some ways, a perplexing move mere months before midterm elections. Polling finds that both Democrats and Republicans think it’s a good idea to ensure that sick people have access to health insurance.

Politically, though, Republicans spent eight years campaigning on a promise to repeal Obamacare. They believe they have a responsibility to do something, even if the something doesn’t poll well.

But after eight years of covering the Affordable Care Act, I think there is a much deeper tension that keeps the fight over Obamacare alive. It is a persistent, unresolved split in how we think about who deserves health insurance in the United States: Is insurance a privilege to be earned through hard work? Or is it a right?

The United States hasn’t decided who deserves health insurance

Since World War II, the United States has had a unique health insurance system that tethers access to medical care to employment. Changes to the tax code created strong incentives for companies to provide health coverage as a benefit to workers. Now most Americans get their insurance through their employer, and, culturally, health insurance is thought of as a benefit that comes with a job.

Over time, the government did carve out exceptions for certain categories of people. Older Americans, after all, wouldn’t be expected to work forever, so they got Medicare coverage in 1965. Medicaid launched the same year, extending benefits to those who were low-income and had some other condition that might make it difficult to work, such as blindness, a disability, or parenting responsibilities.

Then the Affordable Care Act came along with a new approach. The law aimed to open up the insurance market to anybody who wanted coverage, regardless of whether he or she had a job.

It created a marketplace where middle-income individuals could shop on their own for private health coverage without the help of a large company. It expanded Medicaid to millions of low-income Americans. Suddenly, a job became a lot less necessary as a prerequisite for gaining health insurance.

This, I think, is the divide over health insurance in America. It’s about whether we see coverage as part of work. In my reporting and others’, I’ve seen significant swaths of the country where people push back against this. They see health as something you ought to work for, a benefit you get because of the contribution you make by getting up and going to a job each day.

This came out pretty clearly in an interview I did in late 2016 with a woman I met on a reporting trip to Kentucky whom I’ll call Susan Allen. (She asked me not to use her real name because she didn’t want people to know that she uses the Affordable Care Act for coverage.)

Allen used to do administrative work in an elementary school but now is a caregiver to her elderly mother. Her husband has mostly worked in manual labor jobs, including the coal industry.

Allen told me a story about when she worked in the school. At Christmas, there would be a drive to collect present for the poorest families, presents she sometimes couldn’t afford for her own kids. It made her upset.

”These kids that get on the list every year, I’d hear them saying, ‘My mom is going to buy me a TV for Christmas,’” Allen says. “And I can’t afford to buy my kid a TV, and he’s in the exact same grade with her.”

Allen saw her health insurance as the same story: She works really hard and ends up with a health insurance plan that has a $6,000 deductible. Then there are people on Medicaid who don’t work and seem to have easier access to the health care system than she does.

”The ones that have full Medicaid, they can go to the emergency room for a headache,” she says. “They’re going to the doctor for pills, and that’s what they’re on.”

Is health insurance a right or a privilege?

More recently, Atul Gawande wrote a piece for the New Yorker exploring whether Americans view health care as a right or a privilege.

He reported the story in his hometown in Appalachian Ohio, where he kept running into this same idea: that health insurance is something that belongs to those who work for it.

One woman he interviewed, a librarian named Monna, told him, “If you’re disabled, if you’re mentally ill, fine, I get it. But I know so many folks on Medicaid that just don’t work. They’re lazy.”

Another man, Joe, put it this way: “I see people on the same road I live on who have never worked a lick in their life. They’re living on disability incomes, and they’re healthier than I am.”

As Gawande noted in his piece, “A right makes no distinction between the deserving and undeserving.” But he often found this to be the key dividing line when he asked people whether everyone should have health coverage. Often, it came down to whether that person was the type who merited such help.

This isn’t a debate that happens in most other industrialized countries. If you asked a Canadian who deserves health care, you’d probably get a baffled look in return. Our northern neighbors decided decades ago that health insurance is something you get just by the merit of living in Canada. It’s not something you earn; it’s something you’re entitled to.

But in the United States, we’ve never resolved this debate. Our employer-sponsored health care system seems to have left us with some really deep divides over the fundamental questions that define any health care systems.

Those are the questions we’ll need to resolve before the debate over Obamacare ever ends.

 

 

An Estimated 52 Million Adults Have Pre-Existing Conditions That Would Make Them Uninsurable Pre-Obamacare

https://www.kff.org/health-reform/press-release/an-estimated-52-million-adults-have-pre-existing-conditions-that-would-make-them-uninsurable-pre-obamacare/

Image result for pre existing conditions

In Eleven States, 3 in 10 Non-Elderly Adults Would Likely Be Denied Individual Insurance Under Medical Underwriting Practices.

A new Kaiser Family Foundation analysis finds that 52 million adults under 65 – or 27 percent of that population — have pre-existing health conditions that would likely make them uninsurable if they applied for health coverage under medical underwriting practices that existed in most states before insurance regulation changes made by the Affordable Care Act.

In eleven states, at least three in ten non-elderly adults would have a declinable condition, according to the analysis: West Virginia (36%), Mississippi (34%), Kentucky (33%), Alabama (33%), Arkansas (32%), Tennessee (32%), Oklahoma (31%), Louisiana (30%), Missouri (30%), Indiana (30%) and Kansas (30%).

States with the most people estimated to have the conditions include: California (5,865,000), Texas (4,536,000), and Florida (3,116,000).

Using data from two large government surveys, the analysis estimates the total number of nonelderly adults in each state with a health condition that could lead to a denial of coverage in the individual insurance market, based on pre-ACA field underwriting guides for brokers and agents. The results are conservative because the data don’t include some declinable conditions. The estimates also don’t include the number of people with other health conditions that wouldn’t necessarily cause a denial, but could lead to higher insurance costs based on underwriting.

 

 

Americans’ Confidence in Their Ability to Pay for Health Care Is Falling

http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/blog/2018/may/americans-confidence-paying-health-care-falling?omnicid=CFC1404232&mid=henrykotula@yahoo.com

President Trump is expected to soon address the nation about the rising cost of prescription drugs. But Americans are worried about more than drug prices. New findings from the Commonwealth Fund Affordable Care Act Tracking Survey show that consumers’ confidence in their ability to afford all their needed health care continues to decline.

Last week, we reported that the survey indicated a small but significant increase in the uninsured rate among working-age adults since 2016. In this post, we look at people’s views of the affordability of their health care. The Affordable Care Act Tracking Survey is a nationally representative telephone survey conducted by SSRS that tracks coverage rates among 19-to-64-year-olds, and has focused in particular on the experiences of adults who have gained coverage through the marketplaces and Medicaid. The latest wave of the survey was conducted between February and March 2018.1

Findings

Confidence in Ability to Afford Health Care Continues to Decline

In each wave of the survey, we’ve asked respondents whether they have confidence in their ability to afford health care if they were to become seriously ill. In 2018, 62.4 percent of adults said they were very or somewhat confident they could afford their health care, down from a high of nearly 70 percent in 2015 (Table 1). Only about half of people with incomes less than 250 percent of poverty ($30,150 for an individual) were confident they could afford care if they were to become very sick, down from 60 percent in 2015 and about 20 percentage points lower than the rate for adults with higher incomes. There were also significant declines in confidence among young adults, those ages 50 to 64, women, and people with health problems. Declines were significant among both Democrats and Republicans.

People in Employer Plans Have the Greatest Confidence in Their Insurance

We asked people with health insurance how confident they were that their current insurance will help them afford the health care they need this year. Majorities of adults were somewhat or very confident in their coverage; those with employer coverage were the most confident. More than half (55%) of adults insured through an employer were very confident their coverage would help them afford their care compared to 31 percent of adults with individual market coverage and 41 percent of people with Medicaid (Table 2). The least confident were adults enrolled in Medicare. Working-age adults enrolled in Medicare were the sickest among insured adults and the second-poorest after those covered by Medicaid (data not shown).2

One-Quarter of Adults Said Health Care Became Harder to Afford

We asked people whether, over the past year, their health care, including prescription drugs, had become harder for them to afford, easier to afford, or if there had been no change. The majority (66%) said there had been no change, one-quarter (24%) said it had become harder to afford, and 8 percent said it had become easier (Table 3). People with individual market coverage were significantly more likely than those with employer coverage or Medicaid to say health care had become harder to afford. About one-third of adults with deductibles of $1,000 or more said health care had become harder to afford, twice the share of those who had no deductible. About one-third of those enrolled in Medicare and 41 percent who were uninsured also reported that their health care had become harder to afford.

Only About Half of Americans Would Have Money to Pay for an Unexpected Medical Bill

Accidents and other medical emergencies can leave both uninsured and insured people with unexpected medical bills, which usually require prompt payment. We asked people if they would have the money to pay a $1,000 medical bill within 30 days in the case of an unexpected medical event. Nearly half (46%) said they would not have the money to cover such a bill in that time frame (Table 4). Women, people of color, people who are uninsured, those covered by Medicaid or Medicare, and those with incomes under 250 percent of poverty were among the most likely to say they couldn’t pay the bill.

Health Care Is Among People’s Top Four Greatest Personal Financial Concerns

Fourteen percent of adults said that health care was their biggest personal financial concern, after mortgage or rent (23%), student loans (17%), and retirement (17%) (Table 5). Those most likely to cite health care as their greatest financial concern were people who could potentially face high out-of-pocket costs because they were uninsured or had high-deductible health plans.

Policy Implications

Uninsured adults are the least confident in their ability to pay medical bills. But the risk of high out-of-pocket health care costs doesn’t end when someone enrolls in a health plan. The proliferation and growth of high-deductible health plans in both the individual and employer insurance markets is leaving people with unaffordable health care costs. Many adults enrolled in Medicare for reasons of disability or serious illness also report unease about their health care costs. An estimated 41 million insured adults have such high out-of-pocket costs and deductibles relative to their incomes that they are effectively underinsured. As this survey indicates, the nation’s health care cost burden is felt disproportionately by people with low and moderate incomes, people of color, and women.

The ACA’s reforms to the individual insurance market have doubled the number of people who now get insurance on that market to an estimated 17 million, with approximately half receiving subsidies through the ACA marketplaces. The ACA also has made it possible for people who were regularly denied coverage by insurers — older Americans and those with health problems — to get insurance. They are now entitled by law to an offer should they want to buy a plan.

But as this survey suggests, the ACA’s reforms did not fully resolve the individual market’s relatively higher costs for all those enrolled, compared to employer coverage or Medicaid. Moreover, recent actions by Congress and the Trump administration, including the repeal of the individual mandate penalty and loosened restrictions on plans that don’t comply with the ACA, are expected to exacerbate those costs for many. In the survey, people with individual market coverage are more likely than those with employer coverage or Medicaid to say that their health care, including prescription drugs, has become harder to afford in the past year. They express less confidence than those with employer coverage that their insurance will help them afford their care this year. As explained in the first post, there are a number of policy options that Congress can pursue that would improve individual market insurance’s affordability and cost protection. In the absence of bipartisan Congressional agreement on legislation, several states are currently pursuing their own solutions. But if current trends continue, the federal government will likely confront growing pressure to provide a national solution to America’s incipient health care affordability crisis.

 

 

 

 

 

Let the ACA rate hikes begin

Image result for ACA Rate Hikes

Get ready for about six more months of headlines like this: Insurers in Maryland are proposing premium hikes as high as 91% for coverage sold through the Affordable Care Act.

This will keep happening, nationwide. Proposed increases have been steep in Maryland and Virginia, the first two states to release them. But all signs point to steep hikes across the country, especially in rural areas. Some insurers also will likely decide to simply quit offering coverage in some parts of the country.

The latest: Insurers in Maryland’s individual market are seeking rate hikes for next year that range from 18% (for the biggest plan in the state) to 91% (for the smallest). They average out to roughly 32%.

  • These rates are still preliminary — Maryland can approve or reject proposed increases, and it’s also pursuing a reinsurance program that would help bring these increases down.

Why you’ll hear about this again: More preliminary rates will trickle out until the summer, as will any insurers’ decisions to pull up stakes in some markets. After negotiations with state regulators, rates will be finalized a few weeks before the midterms.

  • Expect to hear Democrats making hay of these increases as they accuse Republicans of “sabotaging” the ACA.
  • There’s really no denying that the repeal of the ACA’s individual mandate, coupled with some of the Trump administration’s regulatory moves, is a big driver — though not the only driver — of these staggering increases.

The other side: Expect the Trump administration to cite these same figures as it finalizes regulations that would loosen access to options outside the ACA’s exchanges, saying they’re providing new options to people who simply can’t afford ACA coverage.

  • Don’t forget, though, that some of those options would only benefit the healthiest consumers.

State Regulation of Coverage Options Outside of the Affordable Care Act: Limiting the Risk to the Individual Market

http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/fund-reports/2018/mar/state-regulation-coverage-options-outside-aca?omnicid=EALERT1377329&mid=henrykotula@yahoo.com

Abstract

  • Issue: Certain forms of individual health coverage are not required to comply with the consumer protections of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). These “alternative coverage arrangements” — including transitional policies, short-term plans, health care sharing ministries, and association health plans — tend to have lower upfront costs and offer far fewer benefits than ACA-compliant insurance. While appealing to some healthy individuals, they are often unattractive, or unavailable, to people in less-than-perfect health. By leveraging their regulatory advantages to enroll healthy individuals, these alternatives to marketplace coverage may contribute to a smaller, sicker, and less stable ACA-compliant market. The Trump administration recently has acted to reduce federal barriers to these arrangements.
  • Goal: To understand how states regulate coverage arrangements that do not comply with the ACA’s individual health insurance market reforms.
  • Methods: Analysis of the applicable laws, regulations, and guidance of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
  • Findings and Conclusions: No state’s regulatory framework fully protects the individual market from adverse selection by the alternative coverage arrangements studied. However, states have the authority to ensure a level playing field among coverage options to promote market stability.

Background

Recent federal actions have created the potential for instability in the individual health insurance market, through which approximately 18 million Americans currently purchase their health insurance coverage.1 In October 2017, President Trump issued an executive order to encourage the sale of health insurance products that do not comply with the consumer protections of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).2 In December, Congress repealed, effective in 2019, the tax penalty for individuals who can afford to maintain health insurance coverage but decline to do so (the individual mandate penalty).3

Prior to health reform, insurers in the individual market had wide latitude to deny coverage, charge an unaffordable premium, or limit benefits based on a person’s medical history. As a consequence, individual market health insurance routinely proved inadequate for consumers’ health and financial needs and was often inaccessible to those with even minor health problems.4 The ACA established numerous consumer protections designed to make it easier for consumers in the individual market to access affordable, adequate health insurance. The law requires insurers that sell individual health insurance to offer coverage to all individuals regardless of health status, requires coverage of preexisting conditions, and prohibits insurers from charging higher premiums based on a person’s medical history or gender. It also includes limits on cost-sharing and requires insurers to cover a minimum set of essential health benefits, including coverage for mental and behavioral health care, prescription drugs, and maternity services.

For these consumer protections to work as intended and to keep premiums affordable, they need to be paired with policies that encourage a broad and balanced risk pool. To promote continuous enrollment by the sick and healthy alike, the ACA imposes an individual mandate and provides financial assistance to make coverage more affordable for those with lower and moderate incomes. Importantly, the ACA also defines what types of coverage were sufficiently protective for purposes of satisfying the individual mandate. To prevent cherry-picking of individuals who are low health risks, it also requires all individual market insurers to play by the same rules.

In many ways, the ACA’s regulatory approach to the individual market has proven successful. During the most recent open enrollment period, approximately 11.7 million Americans signed up for coverage through the ACA marketplaces (also called exchanges), most of whom are eligible for subsidies to help with the cost of coverage.5 In turn, improved access to comprehensive individual health insurance under the ACA, along with the expansion of Medicaid, has helped to reduce the uninsured rate by a third, as of 2018, and lower consumers’ average out-of-pocket costs.6 And, despite insurers’ continued uncertainty over the possible repeal of the health law and the Trump administration’s approach to implementing the ACA, analysis showed that, on average, states’ individual markets were stabilizing, with some insurers reaching profitability.7

However, challenges remain. In the past two years, the individual market in most states has seen significant increases in premiums, coupled with decreases in the number of participating insurers.8 While the ACA’s premium subsidies insulate many consumers from these price hikes, many millions of consumers are not eligible for subsidies, and those individuals identify the cost of coverage as a significant barrier to care.9 And though marketplace sign-ups remain stable despite federal policy uncertainty and Trump administration actions seen as undermining the ACA, enrollment remains well below early expectations.10

These challenges are interrelated and can be attributed to many factors. Still, the availability of coverage options that are not compliant with the ACA’s rules, as well as confusion over them, likely has played an important contributing role.

Policy Implications

Although states’ approaches to implementing the ACA can sharply differ, the law’s consumer protections operate nationwide, and nearly all states have taken responsibility for enforcing these reforms in their jurisdictions. The insurance exchanges in most states have proven resilient in the face of significant change and uncertainty, with millions of Americans now able to depend on individual health insurance to protect them both medically and financially.

However, maintaining a stable individual market will become more challenging, thanks to an environment in which healthy consumers are not required to maintain insurance and federal regulations are loosened to promote coverage arrangements likely to weaken insurance risk pools and raise premiums. These developments may incline healthy individuals to look increasingly outside the compliant market for coverage, leaving those who remain to face higher costs and fewer plan choices.68

Based on our review of state laws and standards, it appears that no state maintains a regulatory environment that fully protects its individual health insurance market from being undermined by the alternative coverage options we have identified. However, states continue to be the primary regulators of private health insurance. Although the ACA set a federal floor of consumer protections for insurers that operate in the individual market, it did not curtail states’ power to regulate above these minimum standards and to exercise full authority over coverage arrangements that fall outside the scope of federal insurance law.

How We Conducted This Study

This analysis is based on a review of applicable laws, regulations, and guidance enacted or promulgated prior to February 1, 2018, by each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. This review was supplemented by correspondence with state regulators in 48 states and the District of Columbia.

A number of states have taken steps to limit the availability of non-ACA-compliant products and protect against adverse selection. Massachusetts and New York promptly discontinued transitional coverage and effectively prohibit underwritten short-term policies, while several other states tightly restrict the duration of such plans. Significantly, Massachusetts also has its own individual mandate, requiring state residents to maintain coverage that meets minimum standards.69 Other states have begun to explore enactment of similar policies in anticipation of the federal mandate’s 2019 repeal.

On many fronts, states face a federal regulatory approach to the individual market that is significantly different from what was originally envisioned under the Affordable Care Act. In light of these changed circumstances, there may be value for states in considering regulatory options for protecting their individual insurance markets and their insured beneficiaries from the detrimental effects of non-ACA-compliant policies. The decisions states make will likely have a significant impact on their residents’ access to adequate and affordable coverage and on the stability of their individual health insurance markets.

 

 

Health Care and the 2018 Midterms, Attitudes Towards Proposed Changes to Medicaid

https://www.kff.org/health-reform/poll-finding/kaiser-health-tracking-poll-february-2018-health-care-2018-midterms-proposed-changes-to-medicaid/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter_axiosvitals&stream=top-stories

 

KEY FINDINGS:
  • Medicaid continues to be seen favorably by a majority of the public (74 percent) and about half (52 percent) believe the Medicaid program is working well for most low-income people covered by the program.
  • When asked about proposed changes to the Medicaid program, attitudes are largely driven by party identification. A large majority of Democrats (84 percent) and most independents (64 percent) oppose lifetime limits for Medicaid benefits, while Republicans are more divided in their views with half (51 percent) believing Medicaid should only be available for a limited amount of time.

    Poll: Public split on whether adding work requirements for Medicaid beneficiaries aims at reducing spending (41%) or lifting people out of poverty (33%) 

  • Party identification also drives views on what individuals believe is the main reason behind some states imposing Medicaid work requirements. A larger share of Democrats and independents believe the main reason for these work requirements is to reduce government spending (42 percent and 45 percent, respectively) than believe it is to help lift people out of poverty (26 percent and 31 percent). On the other hand, a similar share of Republicans say it is to reduce government spending (40 percent) as say it is to help lift people out of poverty (42 percent). Individuals living in states pursuing Medicaid work requirements are also divided on the main reason for these limits, even when controlling for party identification.

    54% of the public now holds favorable views of the Affordable Care Act – the highest share in more than 80 tracking polls 

  • The February Kaiser Health Tracking Poll finds a slight increase in the share of the public who say they have a favorable view of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), from 50 percent in January 2018 to 54 percent this month. This is the highest level of favorability of the ACA measured in more than 80 Kaiser Health Tracking Polls since 2010. This change is largely driven by independents, with more than half (55 percent) now saying they have a favorable opinion of the law compared to 48 percent last month. Large majorities (83 percent) of Democrats continue to view the law favorably (including six in ten who now say they hold a “very favorable” view, up from 48 percent last month) while nearly eight in ten Republicans (78 percent) view the law unfavorably (unchanged from last month).
  • The majority of the public are either unaware that the ACA’s individual mandate has been repealed (40 percent) or are aware that it has been repealed but incorrectly think the requirement is not in effect in 2018 (21 percent). Few (13 percent) are aware the requirement has been repealed but is still in effect for 2018.
  • More than twice as many voters mention health care costs (22 percent) as mention repealing/opposing the ACA (7 percent) as the top health care issue they most want to hear 2018 candidates discuss in their campaigns. Health care costs are the top issue mentioned by Democratic voters (16 percent) and independent voters (25 percent), as well as one of the top issues mentioned by Republican voters (22 percent), followed by repealing or opposing the ACA (17 percent).

2018 Midterm Elections

With still a few months until the midterm elections are in full swing, the latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll finds health care costs as the top health care issue mentioned by voters when asked what they want to hear 2018 candidates discuss. When asked to say in their own words what health care issue they most want to hear the candidates talk about during their upcoming campaigns, one-fifth (22 percent) of registered voters mention health care costs. This is followed by a series of other health care issues, such as Medicare/senior concerns (8 percent), repealing or opposition to the Affordable Care Act (7 percent), improve how health care is delivered (7 percent), increasing access/decreasing the number of uninsured (6 percent), or a single-payer system (5 percent). Health care costs is the top issue mentioned by Democratic voters (16 percent) and independent voters (25 percent), as well as one of the top issues mentioned by Republican voters (22 percent), followed by repealing or opposing the ACA (17 percent).

Figure 1: Health Care Costs Are Top Health Care Issue Voters Want 2018 Candidates to Talk About During Their Campaigns

Battleground Voters

Health care costs are also the top issue mentioned by voters living where there are competitive House, Senate, or Governor races. One-fourth (23 percent) of voters in areas with competitive elections mention health care costs when asked what health care issue they most want to hear candidates talk about. Fewer mention other health care issues such as improve how health care is delivered (9 percent) or increasing access/decreasing the number of uninsured (6 percent).

2018 Midterm Election Analysis

As part of Kaiser Family Foundation’s effort to examine the role of health care in the 2018 midterm elections, throughout the year we will be tracking the views of voters – paying special attention to those living in states or congressional districts in which both parties have a viable path to win the election. This group, referred to in our analysis as “voters in battlegrounds” is defined by the 2018 Senate, House, and Governor ratings provided by The Cook Political Report. Congressional and Governor races categorized as “toss-up” were included in this group. A complete list of the states and congressional districts included in the comparison group is available in Appendix A.

The Affordable Care Act

This month’s Kaiser Health Tracking Poll finds a slight increase in the share of the public who say they have a favorable view of the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA). The share of the public who say they hold a favorable view of the law has increased to 54 percent (from 50 percent in January 2018) while 42 percent currently say they hold an unfavorable view. This is the highest level of favorability of the ACA measured in more than 80 Kaiser Health Tracking Polls since 2010.  This change is largely driven by independents, with more than half (55 percent) now saying they have a favorable opinion of the law compared to 48 percent last month. Large majorities (83 percent) of Democrats continue to view the law favorably (including six in ten who now say they hold a “very favorable” view, up from 48 percent last month) while nearly eight in ten Republicans (78 percent) view the law unfavorably (unchanged from last month).

Figure 2: More of the Public Hold a Favorable View of the ACA

Public Awareness of the Repeal of the ACA’s Individual Mandate

The February Kaiser Health Tracking Poll finds a slight uptick (from 36 percent in January 2018 to 41 percent this month) in the share of the public who are aware that the ACA’s requirement that nearly all individuals have health insurance or else pay a fine, known commonly as the individual mandate, has been repealed. Yet, misunderstandings persist. The majority of the public (61 percent) are either unaware that this requirement has been repealed (40 percent) or are aware that it has been repealed but incorrectly think the requirement is not in effect in 2018 (21 percent of total). Few (13 percent) are aware the requirement has been repealed but is still in effect for 2018.

Figure 3: Confusion Remains on the Status of the ACA’s Individual Mandate

Medicaid

In recent months, President Trump’s administration has supported state efforts to make changes to their Medicaid programs, the government health insurance and long-term care program for low-income adults and children. Seven in ten Americans say they have ever had a connection to the Medicaid program either directly through their own health insurance coverage (32 percent) or their child being covered by the program (9 percent), or indirectly through a friend or family member covered by the program (29 percent).

Figure 4: Seven in Ten Americans Say They Have Ever Had A Connection to Medicaid

Majority of the Public Holds Favorable Views of Medicaid and Thinks the Program is Working Well

Overall, the majority of the public (74 percent) holds favorable views of Medicaid, including four in ten who have a “very favorable” view. About one-fifth of the public (21 percent) hold unfavorable views of the program. Unlike attitudes towards the ACA, opinions towards Medicaid are not drastically different among partisans and majorities across parties report favorable views. However, a larger share of Republicans do hold unfavorable views (29 percent) compared to independents (21 percent) or Democrats (13 percent).

Figure 5: Large Shares Across Parties Say They Have a Favorable Opinion of Medicaid

In addition, more believe the program is working well than not working well for most low-income people covered by the program. This holds true across partisans with about half saying the Medicaid program is “working well” and about one-third saying it is “not working well.”

Figure 6: Larger Shares Say Medicaid Is Currently Working Well for Most Low-Income People Covered by the Program

Support for Medicaid Expansion in Non-Expansion States

One of the major changes brought on by the ACA was the option for states to expand Medicaid to cover more low-income people. As of February 2018, 18 states have not expanded their Medicaid programs.

Figure 7: Status of Medicaid Expansion Among States

Among individuals living in states that have not expanded their Medicaid programs, most (56 percent) say they think their state should expand Medicaid to cover more low-income uninsured people while four in ten (37 percent) say their state should keep Medicaid as it is today. Slightly more than half of Republicans living in non-expansion states say their state should keep Medicaid as it is today (54 percent) while four in ten (39 percent) say their state should expand their Medicaid program. Majorities of Democrats (75 percent) and independents (57 percent) say their state should expand their Medicaid program.

Figure 8: Democrats and Independents Are More Likely to Want Their State to Expand Medicaid Than Republicans

Proposed Changes to Medicaid

SECTION 1115 WORK REQUIREMENT WAIVERS

In January, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) provided new guidance for Section 1115 waivers, which would allow states to impose work requirements for individuals to be covered by Medicaid benefits. As of February 21, CMS has approved work requirement waivers in two states (KY and IN) and eight other states have pending requests.1 When asked what they think the reasoning is behind these proposed changes to Medicaid, a larger share of the public (41 percent) believe the main reason is to reduce government spending by limiting the number of people on the program than say the main reason is to help lift people out of poverty (33 percent). There are differences among demographic groups with a larger share of Democrats and independents believing the main reason is to reduce government spending, while Republicans are more divided with similar shares saying the main reason is to lift people out of poverty (42 percent) as reduce government spending (40 percent).

Figure 9: Republicans Are Divided on the Main Reason Behind the Trump Administration Permitting Work Requirements

There are also differences between individuals living in states that have either filed a Medicaid waiver for a work requirement or have had a waiver approved and those living in states that do not have Medicaid work requirement waivers pending or approved.2 Individuals living in states with pending or approved Medicaid work requirements are divided on whether the main reason for these limits is to lift people out of poverty (37 percent) or reduce government spending (36 percent). This holds true even when controlling for other demographic variables such as party identification and income that may influence beliefs.

Figure 10: Those in States with Medicaid Work Requirements Are Divided on the Main Reason Behind Them

SECTION 1115 LIFETIME LIMIT WAIVERS

In addition to work requirement waivers, five states are currently seeking waivers from the Trump administration to impose Medicaid coverage limits. These “lifetime limits” would cap Medicaid health care benefits for non-disabled adults. When asked how they think Medicaid should work, two-thirds of the public say Medicaid should be available to low-income people for as long as they qualify, without a time limit, while one-third say it should only be available to low-income people for a limited amount of time in order to provide temporary help. The vast majority of Democrats (84 percent) and most independents (64 percent) say Medicaid should be available without lifetime limits, while Republicans are divided with similar shares saying they favor time limits (51 percent) as saying they do not favor such limits (47 percent). Seven in ten (71 percent) of individuals who have ever had a connection to Medicaid say they do not support lifetime limits compared to three in ten (28 percent) who say it should only be available for a limited amount of time in order to provide temporary help.

Figure 11: Majorities of Democrats and Independents Say Medicaid Should Be Available Without a Time Limit; Republicans Are Divided

 

 

Poll: 44% Of Americans Skip Doctor Visits Because Of Cost

https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucejapsen/2018/03/26/poll-44-of-americans-skip-doctor-visits-due-to-cost/#31398d56f57e

Because of the high cost of healthcare, 44% Americans didn’t go see a physician last year when they were sick or injured, according to a new survey.

The West Health Institute/NORC at the University of Chicago national poll comes as policymakers and health insurance companies are predicting a jump in health premiums and out-of-pocket costs, particularly for Americans with individual coverage under the Affordable Care Act. The $1.3 trillion spending bill signed into law last week by President Donald Trump didn’t include reinsurance programs and money to restore Obamacare funds to help Americans pay co-payments and deductibles despite bipartisan support in the Senate.

Cost continues to be a barrier to treatment with 40% of Americans who say they “skipped a recommended medical test or treatment in the last 12 months due to cost.” Another 32% were “unable to fill a prescription or took less of a medication because of the cost,” the West Health/NORC poll of more than 1,300 adults said.

“The high cost of healthcare has become a public health crisis that cuts across all ages as more Americans are delaying or going without recommended medical tests and treatments,” West Health Institute chief medical officer Dr. Zia Agha said in a statement accompanying the poll results. The survey is being released at this week’s American Society on Aging 2018 Aging in America Conference in San Francisco.

The West Health-NORC poll is the latest national survey showing Americans continued frustration with high healthcare costs even as the U.S. spends more than $3.3 trillion annually on healthcare.

Several recent polls have indicated healthcare is back on the top of voters’ concerns as they head to the polls this November for mid-term Congressional and statewide general elections. A Kaiser Health Tracking poll published earlier this month ranked “health care costs as the top health care issue mentioned by voters when asked what they want to hear 2018 candidates discuss.”