Health Policy Happenings, 10.29.21

We made it to Friday…not so sure about the Build Back Better spending/reconciliation bill. I don’t know what is happening in Washington, D.C. but it is making me want to bang my head against a wall. Anyone else feeling that way!? I’m trying not to get my hopes up for literally anything being included until we see that final bill passed. There was some text released from the House yesterday but honestly, who knows what’s going to happen with it. So this HPH is going to be on the shorter side, since so much of what I was going to share is already outdated…I’ve still got some reconciliation updates, but just keep the ever evolving nature of it in mind.

Open enrollment for ACA Marketplace plans starts on Monday, Nov. 1! KFF has just released their Health Insurance Marketplace Calculator that can estimate premiums and subsidies for health insurance coverage on the Marketplace. Not sure what certain insurance terms mean? This glossary should answer all of your questions!

Not a single federal assistance program helps families pay for diapers – a necessity for those with small children – and they are taxed in 35 states. There is significant anxiety for those families who cannot afford enough diapers. California is the only state that offers some diaper assistance, but it barely scratches the surface of the need.

This is an excellent explanation of Title 42, a public health statute that is being used as the basis for immigration actions that immediately remove anyone entering the country without authorization in the “interest of public health.” There is currently a legal battle playing out over the law and it has been significantly reshaping our immigration policy.

A wide majority of the public (80%!) support allowing the government to negotiate drug pricing and this was set to be a cornerstone of the reconciliation bill – but right now it’s out of the bill and Pharma seems to have prevailed again. Senator Kirsten Sinema has been a particular challenge when it comes to efforts to include drug pricing reform in the bill.

Climate change is fueling health disparities, which is then further compounded in areas with a history of discriminatory redlining policies that continue to impact where racial and ethnic minority families live and by environmental racism, such as where industrial factories and major highways are located in regard to housing. These man made health disparities are serious contributors to heat-related illness and death.

Here’s a solid overview of what’s currently in the Build Back Better spending bill (aka reconciliation bill) but as I’ve pointed out, things can and will change before its final. The health section has been scaled back from previous version and now mostly focuses on improving the Affordable Care Act with extended subsidies for ACA marketplace plans and attempts to close the gap of uninsured in the 12 states that have yet to expand Medicaid. Whats not included right now? Paid leave, drug pricing negotiation, and expanded Medicare for vision and dental, among other items.

It’s time for Medicare open enrollment for folks 65 and older, but shopping for a new plan can be exceptionally confusing, especially for those who might not be tech savvy – plus we all know shopping for insurance is confusing, no matter how old you are. This podcast from Tradeoffs captures the issue well.

The folks at KHN’s What the Health podcast are some of the smartest health reporters in the business, so take a listen to their latest episode on the drama surrounding the spending bill.

The Affordable Care Act set up programs that allows the federal government to cut payments to hospitals with high readmission rates and high numbers of patient injuries and infections. You can use this fantastic tool to see if the hospitals in your area are being penalized.

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