The clock is ticking for Congress to tackle a series of upcoming financial hurdles, including balancing the federal budget and appropriating funding for fiscal year 2016. Congress must pass a spending deal by October 1 or the federal government will shut down. In the process, lawmakers may target the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicaid, and other vital health care programs that serve low-income Americans in an effort to cut spending.
From February 4-6, 2016, the Health Action Conference—one of the nation’s largest gatherings of consumer health care advocates—will bring people together from across the country to prepare for the crucial work of improving access to affordable, high-quality health care. Registration begins November 1.
Last week, the federal government, for the first time, announced far-reaching regulations banning discrimination in health care. With this historic action, the government is prohibiting discrimination in the provision of health care services based on sex and gender identity. The new regulations announced by the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also expand existing discrimination bans on the basis of disability or health status, race, national origin, age, or language spoken.
Communities of color face significant health disparities and are more likely to suffer from certain chronic conditions, like diabetes, where early detection and treatment could mean the difference between life and death. One way to improve the odds for people with these conditions is to increase access to services, like necessary medications or periodic medical tests, that prevent the progression of, or complications from, those diseases.
Unfortunately for many lower-income consumers with high-deductible health insurance plans, the out-of-pocket expense of this essential care is well beyond their financial reach, causing them to forgo care.
State lawmakers kept returning to the topic of 1332 waivers during the annual Legislative Summit of the National Conference of State Legislatures in Seattle last week. No fewer than four of the NCSL Health and Human Services sessions touched on the state innovation waiver options that will become available in 2017. But while the 1332 waivers were a hot topic, it does not appear legislators are looking to embrace big changes anytime soon.
The next big debate over the Affordable Care Act is looming. States are already planning for changes they'd like to make to the ACA using the new 1332 state innovation waivers. Beginning in 2017, the ACA permits states to apply for waivers to begin experimenting with strategies to provide residents with access to high-quality, affordable health insurance. But whether these new strategies will be helpful or harmful is still anyone’s guess.
Although Republicans in Congress missed their self-imposed July 24 budget reconciliation deadline where they hoped to repeal the Affordable Care Act, that doesn’t mean the drama is over. After the August recess, Republicans may still use reconciliation to attempt to dismantle the ACA, cut Medicaid, and other health care programs that serve low-income Americans.
Lack of access to dental care is a significant problem in American health care. Last week, USA Today reported that the number of adults seeking help in the emergency room for “long-delayed dental care” has doubled since 2000. This finding highlights data we released in May showing that dental care is one of the most persistent unmet health care needs for many adults.
Now that insurers’ proposed health insurance premium rates for 2016 have been made public by federal and state regulators, the rate review process—where the public and consumer groups can comment—is in full swing. Not surprisingly, the highest proposed rates are garnering the most attention from the media and others. This blog describes trends in these rate increases and explains why it’s important to look at proposed rates in context.