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Alex Azar Archives — Page 2 of 3 — Protect Our Care

Trump Officials’ Claims Contradict Their Own Short-Term Plan Proposal

Yesterday, top Trump health officials Secretary Alex Azar and Administrator Seema Verma directly contradicted their own short-term plan regulation as they desperately tried to spin away the damage their plan would inflict on Americans’ ability to access quality, affordable health care.

In their own words, here’s a roundup of Azar’s and Verma’s inconsistencies about the real impact of their “short-term” plan proposal:

Spiking individual market premiums

HHS REG: “It would result in an increase in premiums for the individuals remaining in those risk pools. An increase in premiums for individual market single risk pool coverage would result in an increase in Federal outlays for APTC.”

VERMA: “This shift will have will have virtually no impact on the individual market premiums.”

Lower-quality coverage

HHS REG: “Consumers who purchase short-term, limited-duration insurance policies and then develop chronic conditions could face financial hardship as a result, until they are able to enroll in PPACA-compliant plans that would provide for such conditions.”

VERMA: “While in the past these plans have been a bridge, now they can be a lifeline.”

Fewer real insurance options

HHS REG: “Individual market issuers could experience higher than expected costs of care and suffer financial losses, which might prompt them to leave the individual market.”

AZAR: “This is a group of people, they live in areas of the country where there’s one plan they might have access to, so they’re looking for other options.”

“Short term” or not?

HHS REG: “Short-term, limited-duration insurance is a type of health insurance coverage that was designed to fill temporary gaps in coverage that may occur when an individual is transitioning from one plan or coverage to another.”

AZAR: “We are proposing that these plans would be available up to 12 months for people … We are asking for comment on whether we have the legal authority to let people renew their plans.”


Bonus: A Pre-existing Predicament

Even Azar and Verma can’t find a way to sugarcoat the harm their proposal would inflict on the one in four Americans with a pre-existing condition. The Affordable Care Act’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions are among the law’s most popular provisions.

HHS REG: “Short-term, limited-duration insurance policies would be unlikely to include all the elements of PPACA-compliant plans, such as the preexisting condition exclusion prohibition.”

AZAR: “These plans may have fewer benefits than we’re used to, they may have more restrictions, and also they may be able to limit who they insure for. That’s part of this.”

 

Idaho Reactions: Will Secretary Azar Uphold His Oath or Allow State to Blatantly Violate Federal Law?

Today, Blue Cross of Idaho announced that it will follow Republican Governor Butch Otter’s lead and violate federal law by offering insurance plans that don’t conform to the consumer protections mandated by the Affordable Care Act. Blue Cross of Idaho is leading the charge to take people back to a time when insurance companies could decide whether they were taken care of when they got sick, and it’s now incumbent upon the Trump Administration, specifically Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, to uphold the law of the land – just as he swore to do upon assuming his Cabinet position. How is this announcement being treated so far?

American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, American Liver Foundation, American Lung Association, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Epilepsy Foundation, Hemophilia Federation of America, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Lutheran Services in America, March of Dimes, Mended Little Hearts, Muscular Dystrophy Association, National MS Society, National Organization for Rare Disorders: “The Federal Government Must Uphold The Requirements Of Federal Law.” “Idaho’s insurance bulletin would allow insurers to sell individual market plans that do not comply with federal law. Because the Idaho Bulletin purports to authorize the issuance of insurance coverage that is prohibited by federal law, it is legally invalid… The federal government must uphold the requirements of federal law that protect patients, their families, and the health system against these consequences. On behalf of our patients, and all Americans, we urge you to make clear that Idaho cannot authorize the issuance of health insurance coverage that violates federal law, and that any insurer that issues such plans risks enforcement action and serious penalties.” [ACS-CAN, 2/14/18]

Los Angeles Times: “Not A Good Sign For The Rule Of Law.” “If he is serious about his duty to uphold the Affordable Care Act, Azar has no real option other than to nip the Idaho venture in the bud. He could have taken a strong stand during his appearance on Capitol Hill Wednesday, but failed. That’s not a good sign for the rule of law.” [LA Times, 2/14/18]

Business Insider: “HHS Is Required By The ACA To Step In And Take Over Regulation Of Any State That Does Not Meet Regulatory Standards.” “Blue Cross of Idaho announced Wednesday it would take advantage of the state’s new loophole for Affordable Care Act regulations, prompting questions over how the Trump administration will respond… HHS is required by the ACA to step in and take over regulation of any state that does not meet regulatory standards, and the department has done so in four states already.” [Business Insider, 2/14/18]

The Hill: The Proposed Plans Contain Features “Not Allowed.” “[The] proposal is legally questionable and has drawn backlash from Democrats who say he is simply ignoring federal law. The [plans] would charge people with pre-existing conditions more and have a limit of $1 million in claims per year, according to the Idaho Statesman. Both of those features are not allowed under ObamaCare… Democrats have been pressuring Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar to step in to stop Idaho’s plan and enforce the law.” [The Hill, 2/14/18]

Washington Examiner: Proposed Plans “Put Pressure On The Federal Government To Step In And Enforce Rules.” “Many experts have questioned whether this would survive a legal challenge, because Obamacare requires plans sold on the law’s insurance marketplaces, which offer coverage on the individual market, to meet certain benefit requirements… Idaho’s action has put pressure on the federal government to step in and enforce rules that the Trump administration has pushed to repeal.” [Washington Examiner, 2/14/18]

Bloomberg: Proposed Policies “Are Specifically Forbidden.” “[The policies proposed] are specifically forbidden by the 2010 law. The move sets up a potential conflict with the federal government. While President Donald Trump has said he opposes the law and has taken steps to undermine it, the administration will have to decide whether to enforce legal requirements that remain on the books.” [Bloomberg, 2/14/18]

Washington Times: The Trump Administration “Is Responsible For Enforcing [The Law].” “The Idaho situation is a key test for the Trump administration, which still wants to repeal and replace Obamacare but is responsible for enforcing the 2010 law while it remains on the books… Obamacare’s defenders say the Idaho plan skirts the law completely, however, so HHS must act to preserve hard-won consumer protections. ‘It’s cruel, and it’s an illegal attempt to repeal our health care,’ Save My Care, a pro-Obamacare coalition, says in new ads running in Boise, Idaho, and the nation’s capital. ‘Call Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. Tell him to block Governor Otter’s attack on our health care.’” [Washington Times, 2/14/18]

As a reminder, here’s what legal experts are saying about Idaho:

Tim Jost, Washington and Lee University School of Law Emeritus Professor: “What They’re Doing Is Completely Illegal.” “Both in terms of federal penalties and in terms of potential private lawsuits, they are taking on tremendous liabilities here. What they’re doing is completely illegal. It’s kind of jaw-dropping.” [Bloomberg, 2/14/18]

Larry Levitt, Kaiser Family Foundation Senior Vice President: “This Is Simply Not Allowed.” “Idaho is allowing health insurance plans that charge sick people more than healthy people, have an annual limit on coverage, and don’t cover maternity care. That’s simply not allowed under the ACA. If a state like Idaho is not enforcing the ACA’s insurance protections, the federal government is obligated to step in and enforce the rules…. If HHS does not step in and enforce the ACA’s insurance rules in Idaho, it won’t just be about Idaho. Other conservative states will no doubt then start to allow insurance plans that don’t comply with the ACA.” [Twitter, 2/14/18]

Will Secretary Azar follow the oath he swore to uphold just weeks ago? Or will he allow states to violate the very laws he pledged to uphold?

3 Facts You Should Know After Sec. Azar’s Ways and Means Hearing

HHS Secretary Alex Azar appeared before the House Ways and Means Committee today and doubled down on the Trump Administration’s war on health care. His language may have been nuanced, but the policy results would be the same. Here are three key facts you should know after his testimony today.

FACT #1: THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION’S OPIOID FUNDING WILL NOT BE EFFECTIVE IF IT CONTINUES PARTISAN EFFORTS TO REPEAL THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT AND GUT MEDICAID

WHAT SEC. AZAR SAID: “The President’s Budget recognizes the devastation caused by this [opioid] crisis across America, by providing a historic new investment of $10 billion in HHS funding to address the opioid crisis and serious mental illness…”

THE FACTS: While the additional funding for opioids is welcomed, it will have little to no impact if the Administration continues its partisan push to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and gut Medicaid.

  • Vox: Trump’s budget could help fight the opioid crisis — if it didn’t try to repeal Obamacare. Vox: “Medicaid is particularly important in this area. A 2014 study by Truven Health Analytics researchers found that Medicaid paid for about 25 percent — $7.9 billion of $31.3 billion — of projected public and private spending for addiction treatment in 2014. That made it the second-biggest payer of addiction treatment after all local and state government programs. Yet not only would Trump’s budget plan end the Obamacare-funded Medicaid expansion, it would also make additional cuts to Medicaid.”

FACT #2: SEC. AZAR DOUBLED DOWN ON THE PARTISAN REPEAL ATTEMPT THAT WILL RIP COVERAGE AWAY FROM TENS OF MILLIONS, RAISE COSTS FOR MILLIONS MORE, AND GUT PROTECTIONS FOR PEOPLE WITH PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS

WHAT SEC. AZAR SAID: “The Budget supports repealing Obamacare and replacing the law with flexibility for states to create free and open healthcare tailored to citizens’ needs. The two-part approach is modeled closely after the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson amendment to H.R. 1628, the American Health Care Act of 2017, and also includes additional reforms to put healthcare spending on a sustainable fiscal path.”

THE FACTS: The Graham-Cassidy legislation was the worst of all the partisan repeal efforts Congress considered last year that ripped coverage away from tens of millions of people, raised costs on millions more, gutted protections for pre-existing conditions, and slashed Medicaid.

  • Analysts Agree: Every State Loses Under Graham-Cassidy and Many Working and Middle Class Families See Their Costs Increase. Multiple independent analyses agree that the Graham-Cassidy repeal bill would cut federal funding to states. Over time, every state loses because Graham-Cassidy zeroes out its block grants and ratchets down its spending on the Medicaid per capita cap. This means people would not have access to the financial assistance to help lower their health care bills, and federal Medicaid funding would no longer adjust for public health emergencies, prescription drug or other cost spikes, or other unexpected increases in need.
  • 32 Million Would Lose Health Coverage. As a result of zeroing out block grants for Marketplace tax credits and Medicaid expansion and additional cuts to Medicaid, the Graham-Cassidy bill is essentially repealing the Affordable Care Act without replacing it.
  • Graham-Cassidy Would Raise Costs For People With Pre-Existing Conditions. Graham-Cassidy would allow states to let insurance companies once again charge people with pre-existing conditions more, which could raise costs for the more than 134 million Americans that have a pre-existing condition. An individual with asthma, for example, would face a premium surcharge of $4,340. The surcharge for pregnancy would be $17,320, while it would be $142,650 more for patients with metastatic cancer.

FACT #3: SEC. AZAR DOUBLED DOWN ON THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION’S WAR ON MEDICAID

WHAT SEC. AZAR SAID: “Our budget proposes a new future for Medicaid that will restructure Medicaid financing, provide states with new flexibilities to better serve our communities, improve the state plan and waiver processes, and provide the right incentives to preserve the program for future generations.”

THE FACTS: The Trump Administration is doubling down on its war on Medicaid by continuing to push for the Graham-Cassidy legislation that ended Medicaid expansion, which has given 15 million people access to care, and by slashing traditional Medicaid, putting the care of millions of seniors, children, and people with disabilities at risk. The Administration’s attempts to impose onerous work requirements are not about work, but about kicking people off their health care. The fact is most people on Medicaid who can work, are working. These requirements are the opposite of what we need to be doing to help people find and keep jobs.

Protect Our Care Calls On Azar to Stand Up for Idahoans’ Coverage

After HHS Secretary Alex Azar dodged questions posed by the House Ways and Means Committee about an Idaho insurance company that intends to sell plans that violate Affordable Care Act minimum quality standards and protections for people with pre-existing conditions, saying “I’m not aware that our opinions or views have been solicited,” Protect Our Care Campaign Director Brad Woodhouse released the following statement:

“Dodging the question won’t cut it: Secretary Azar needs to stand up and protect health care for the people of Idaho by stopping the state’s illegal plan to allow pre-Affordable Care Act coverage. This morning we learned that Blue Cross Idaho is trying to take Idahoans back to the days of coverage caps, when people with insurance still lived one illness or injury away from bankruptcy. Even worse, the company is planning to charge people higher premiums based on their medical history, bringing Idaho back to the days when insurers could discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions like asthma or cancer. Medical bankruptcy and coverage denials are exactly the kind of insurance company abuses the Affordable Care Act was designed to stop, and it has done so with popular provisions that most Republicans claim to support. Now, it’s time for Secretary Azar to stand up for the people of Idaho and enforce the law that’s designed to protect their care.”

Ignoring Obamacare Rules, Idaho ‘Freedom’ Plans Come With Limits

Bloomberg // Zachary Tracer // February 14, 2018

After Idaho’s Republican governor promised to find creative ways to get around Obamacare, one health plan in the state plans to offer skimpy coverage that may violate many of the law’s protections for patients.

Blue Cross of Idaho said Wednesday that it will offer insurance plans that don’t comply with some Affordable Care Act requirements. The plans, branded as “Freedom Blue” coverage, have limits on annual medical spending and will charge sicker people higher premiums or deny them coverage in some cases — policies specifically forbidden by the 2010 law.

The move sets up a potential conflict with the federal government. While President Donald Trump has said he opposes the law and has taken steps to undermine it, the administration will have to decide whether to enforce legal requirements that remain on the books.

“Both in terms of federal penalties and in terms of potential private lawsuits, they are taking on tremendous liabilities here,” said Tim Jost, an emeritus professor at the Washington and Lee University School of Law who has been critical of efforts to unwind the law. “What they’re doing is completely illegal. It’s kind of jaw-dropping.”

Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, said during a Senate hearing last year that he’d uphold the ACA as long as it remains law. Azar is testifying before Congress Wednesday. The department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ways Around Law

In early January, Idaho Governor Butch Otter directed the state’s insurance regulator to find “creative ways” for health insurers in the state to offer more affordable coverage. Otter said the state planned to use flexibility offered by the Trump administration in an executive order, and that it had authority to do so. The insurance regulator issued guidelines for the plans later that month.

“The door is open for states to pursue our own reasonable solutions,” Otter said. “We believe Idaho will lead the way in states taking back control of their insurance markets.”

“Our Freedom Blue plans bring more choices and lower prices to consumers,” Blue Cross Idaho Chief Executive Officer Charlene Maher said in a statement.

The plans have a $1 million annual per-person limit to how much care the insurer will pay for. Some also don’t have to cover services like maternity care, and can charge more to people who are sicker after asking them extensive questions about their health.

While such policies were banned by the Affordable Care Act, Idaho plans to use the law as a backstop. If individuals end up with medical expenses that exceed the $1 million limit in the non-Obamacare plans, Idaho will require insurers to help them move into ACA plans, which don’t have limits on medical spending.

 

3 Questions Secretary Azar Must Answer After Today’s Meeting With President Trump

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This morning, as news breaks that almost 12 million people enrolled through the Marketplaces despite Republican sabotage, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar will meet with President Trump to discuss the Administration’s path forward. Will they continue their unpopular, partisan war on our care, or listen to the American people, who want an end to sabotage and repeal?

Here are three questions Secretary Azar must answer following his meeting with the President:

1. Will the Trump Administration Stop its War on Medicaid?

Yesterday, the Trump Administration announced it might allow states to impose lifetime limits for people with Medicaid, a direct affront to Medicaid’s mission. This proposal puts care for roughly 1 in 5 Americans, or 77 million people, in danger most of whom are seniors living in nursing homes or receive other long-term care, children, and people with disabilities. The reality is the majority of Americans with Medicaid coverage live in working households, and now the Trump Administration is considering punishing people just because their employer doesn’t offer insurance or because they got sick or have a disability and lost their job. The Affordable Care Act stopped insurance companies from imposing dollar lifetime limits on coverage, and as a result, 105 million Americans are now free from arbitrary limits on care. But the Trump Administration wants to take us back to the days of lifetime coverage caps, and they’re targeting our most vulnerable citizens as guinea pigs. The Administration has also just started allowing states to impose onerous work requirements for people with Medicaid, which will not help people find or keep a job, but will just take away their health care.

These are the latest salvos in their war on Medicaid. Last year, the House of Representatives passed a health repeal bill that cut Medicaid by $839 billion, or 25 percent, and converted the program into a “per capita cap”, thus ending the guaranteed coverage for everyone who has it.

2. Will the Trump Administration Stop Pushing Junk Health Care Plans that Roll Back Key Protections for People with Pre-Existing Conditions?

The Trump Administration is taking steps to gut key protections and expose people to discrimination based on pre-existing conditions through their so-called “association health plans” and short-term plans. These efforts allow insurance companies to once again sell plans that do not meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. These skimpy plans could refuse to cover essential health benefits such as cancer treatments, maternity care, and addiction treatment, forcing people who actually want or need comprehensive coverage or have a pre-existing condition to pay more.

3. Will the Administration Start Walking the Walk on Fighting the Opioid Crisis?

Yesterday, Politico reported that White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway was “quietly freezing out drug policy professionals and relying instead on political staff to address a lethal crisis claiming about 175 lives a day.” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia said, “I haven’t talked to Kellyanne at all and I’m from the worst state for this…I’m uncertain of her role.”

To date, the Administration has completely failed to address  the nation’s raging opioid crisis. The window-dressing public health emergency declaration the President made freed up a fund worth only $57,000, falling pathetically short of the billions that experts say are desperately needed to combat the crisis. The House repeal bill that President Trump supported would make the opioid crisis worse by eliminating coverage requirements for mental health and addiction treatment, and through drastic Medicaid cuts that put states on the hook for the huge cost of dealing with the epidemic. The Trump Administration has relentlessly attacked and sabotaged Medicaid, which helps people with opioid addiction receive care, paying for one-fifth of all substance abuse treatment nationwide. And, the Trump Administration proposed a 95% cut to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which is charged with coordinating the federal response to the nation’s raging opioid crisis – for the second year in a row.

Indiana Waiver Approval Accelerates Trump Administration’s War on Medicaid

Washington, DC – As the Trump Administration accelerates its war on Medicaid today by approving Indiana’s waiver proposal, Protect Our Care Campaign Director Brad Woodhouse released the following statement:

“By announcing today’s approval, Secretary Azar is escalating the Republican war on health care and its effort to demolish Medicaid from the inside out. The Trump Administration is choosing to cause real pain in Indiana by letting the state make Mike Pence and Seema Verma’s cruel, failing Medicaid ‘experiment’ even worse. Hoosiers with Medicaid will face a 6-month lockout for a simple paperwork mistake, reversing Obama-era progress to streamline enrollment and reduce administrative hurdles. A person caring for a sick child or parent, someone working to control their opioid addiction, or someone who has chronic health conditions that make it impossible to work will now have the added worry of losing their health insurance. This is just cruel. The truth is that imposing work requirements will do nothing to help Hoosiers find or keep jobs. In fact, it most likely will have the opposite effect.

“With today’s announcement, Secretary Azar is also showing that he is a Trump foot soldier who’s happy to help distract from CMS Administrator Verma’s conflicts of interest in Indiana: the agency she leads has just signed off on an even worse version of a badly failing program she personally made millions of taxpayer money off of thanks to Vice President Pence while he was Governor.

“Today’s announcement is a direct affront to Medicaid’s stated mission of improving people’s health.  This is not about work. It’s about taking away people’s health care. All it does is kick people while they’re down.”

BACKGROUND:

In 2015, in order to expand Medicaid to over 350,000 Hoosiers, the Obama administration approved then-Indiana Governor Mike Pence’s experimental proposal to impose nominal “show” premiums (often $1) for people with Medicaid, and then take away their coverage with a “lockout” of at least 6 months if they missed a payment. Since then, 25,000 Hoosiers have been kicked off their coverage by lockouts.

CMS Administrator Verma’s Checkered Anti-Medicaid Past in Indiana & Beyond

Verma Created The “Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0” Under Pence, Which Put Restrictions On Medicaid Recipients That “Warranted A Six-Month Lockout From Coverage” If They Missed A Single Monthly Payment. According to the International Business Times, “Verma has an extensive history in the healthcare industry. Her consulting firm, SVC Inc., worked alongside Pence to reform Indiana’s Medicaid program following the induction of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA). […]While Pence was governor of Indiana, Verma helped create Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0, which required users, including low-income recipients, to make monthly payments for their health insurance services with restrictions that warranted a six-month lockout from coverage if even a single payment was missed.” [International Business Times, 11/30/16]

A Mother Of Three In Indianapolis Was Kicked Out Of The Program For A Misplaced $1 Payment. According to NPR, “So how does it work in practice? For Amber Thayer, a mom of three who lives in a Volunteers of America family shelter in Indianapolis, it’s been a bit of a nightmare. Thayer is a recovering addict who has been clean for six months with the help of the medication Suboxone. And she’s training to be a nursing assistant. ‘It’s been quite, quite the struggle, but we’ve gotten there and we’re doing great, and we’re getting ready to get into our own home,’ she says. She pays $1 a month for her Medicaid insurance. In October, she got a bill for that $1 from a different company than the one she had been dealing with. She assumed the state had switched her. ‘It is only a dollar,’ she says. ‘I could pay a dollar a month, or I could pay $12 and that will cover me for the year. Unfortunately, at that time, I only had I believe it was like $2.38 on my card.’ So she called the company and used her bank card to pay the dollar. But the company, or perhaps the state, lost track of her dollar, and her insurance was cut off. She had her bank statement and a receipt from the insurer that proved she had paid. But she still spent six weeks, with multiple phone calls and visits to state health offices, trying to get her coverage restored.” [NPR via Houston Public Chronicle, 1/3/17]

Indiana Medicaid Recipients Could Be “Locked Out Of The Program” For Not Paying Their Premiums, “A Provision Even Commercial Insurance Does Not Impose.” According to The Guardian, “In Indiana, if people on Medicaid earning between $11,000 and $16,000 don’t pay their ‘premiums’, they can be locked out of the program for up to six months, a provision even commercial insurance does not impose. ‘If someone can’t scrape up the money for premiums for two months, they get dis-enrolled, and they get locked out for six months,’ said Kallow. ‘Then say they get cancer, they get hit by a truck, they have an accident. They have absolutely no place to turn for health coverage.’” [The Guardian, 12/4/16]

While Kicking People Off Of Medicaid, Verma’s Firm SVC, Inc. Was Contracted To Receive More Than $4.8 Million From The State Of Indiana Between 2014 And 2017. According to SVC’s contract with the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, SVC Inc. was contracted to receive $4,851,400 between May 2014 and June 2017. [SVC Inc. Contract – Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, 6/17/16]

At The Same Time Verma Worked On The Redesign Of Indiana’s Medicaid Program Under A $3.5 Million State Contract She Was Working For “One Of The State’s Largest Medicaid Vendors,” Receiving More Than $1 Million.” According to the Indy Star, “Largely invisible to the public, Verma’s work has included the design of the Healthy Indiana Plan, a consumer-driven insurance program for low-income Hoosiers now being touted nationally as an alternative to Obamacare. In all, Verma and her small consulting firm, SVC Inc., have received more than $3.5 million in state contracts. At the same time, Verma has worked for one of the state’s largest Medicaid vendors — a division of Silicon Valley tech giant Hewlett-Packard. That company agreed to pay Verma more than $1 million and has landed more than $500 million in state contracts during her tenure as Indiana’s go-to health-care consultant, according to documents obtained by The Indianapolis Star. Verma’s dual roles raise an important question: Who is she working for when she advises the state on how to spend billions of dollars in Medicaid funds — Hoosier taxpayers or one of the state’s largest contractors?” [Indy Star, 8/26/14]

  • Indiana Lawmakers Were Unaware That Verma Was Working For The State And For HP Simultaneously. According to the Indy Star, “If Verma was a federal contractor, her dual roles ‘would certainly raise tremendous concern for regulators and purchasing officials,’ he said. ‘This is exactly the kind of thing that would land an agency in a hearing before a legislative oversight committee.’” [Indy Star, 8/26/14]

Verma’s Medicaid Reforms In Iowa Were “A Nightmare.” According to STAT News: “When President Donald Trump tapped policy consultant Seema Verma to run Medicaid and Medicare in his administration, he called her part of a health care ‘dream team.’ But the health policy changes she helped design in Iowa have felt more like a nightmare to providers serving poor and disabled residents across the state. Verma has helped several states revamp Medicaid, including Kentucky and Indiana. Here in Iowa, she worked on an aggressive effort to privatize the program, which provides health care to about 600,000 adults and children.” [STAT News, 1/24/17]

  • Ablekids Pediatric Therapy In Sioux Falls Reported Struggle to Keep Doors Open. According to a Des Moines Register editorial: “The Cedar Rapids Gazette has reported on billing problems experienced by outpatient rehabilitation clinics across the state. ‘We’re not even getting half of what we got with Iowa Medicaid,’ said Jessica McHugh, owner of AbleKids Pediatric Therapy in Sioux City, referring to the many years when the state administered Medicaid.” [Editorial – Des Moines Register, 7/16/16]

This Week In the War on Health Care — January 29 – February 2, 2018

While Washington focused on the State of the Union, the Trump Administration continued its unprecedented assault on the American health care system. Here’s what happened this week in Republicans’ war on health care – and why they’re losing battles to the American people:

LIES FROM THE LECTERN

During his State of the Union address, President Trump doubled down on the war on health care his administration and his Republican allies in Congress waged last year, saying he “repealed the core of disastrous Obamacare” — a widely debunked lie. He also failed to mention that:

The President then pivoted to the opioid crisis, attempting to take credit for addressing the epidemic. But in reality, Trump has done nothing to facilitate treatment for Americans struggling with addiction. In fact, his attacks on critical federal health care and opioid response programs stand to make the situation worse:

  • His public health emergency declaration speech freed up just $57,000, pathetically short of the billions experts say are desperately needed.
  • His Administration sabotaged Medicaid, which pays for one-fifth of all substance abuse treatment nationwide.
  • He proposed a 95% cut to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which coordinates the federal opioid response – and he did so for the second year in a row.

Sadly, the Trump Administration is not only offering a pathetic response to the nation’s most urgent public health crisis, it’s actively sabotaging communities that are fighting to turn the tide on this deadly epidemic.

A NEW GENERAL TAKES HIS OATH

On Monday, former Big Pharma lobbyist Alex Azar was sworn in as the new secretary of Health and Human Services. Azar lied about the Trump Administration’s sabotage throughout his confirmation process, choosing to embrace the Republican agenda that takes coverage from millions of Americans, raises costs for millions more, and protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

Whether Azar upholds the oath he swore will soon be tested because of…

IDAHO’S ATTEMPT TO FLOUT FEDERAL LAW

Negative reactions continued as experts digested Idaho Governor Butch Otter’s illegal proposed assault on the Affordable Care Act. University of Michigan law professor and former Department of Justice attorney Nicholas Bagley called such an action “crazypants illegal,” noting that Idaho, “appears to be claiming they do not have to adhere to federal law.”

What Secretary Azar does with this will be an excellent indicator of whether he plans to truly support the health of the American people, like he claimed, of if he will merely be another foot soldier in the Administration’s war on health care.

COSTS FOR SENIORS CONTINUE TO RISE

A new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation highlights massive increases in out-of-pocket medical costs for Medicare beneficiaries – costs that are projected to keep skyrocketing.

While President Trump has claimed he wants to lower costs, the reality is the opposite: he has consistently supported proposals making health care more expensive, from repeal legislation allowing insurance companies to charge people over 50 an ‘age tax’ with rates five times higher to the GOP tax scam set to raise premiums double digits. Seniors should rightly be furious, as are…

HEALTH CARE PROTESTS IN WEST VIRGINIA

As GOP Members of Congress retreated to West Virginia, they were greeted by protesters furious about the ongoing war on health care:

OPEN ENROLLMENT NUMBERS BLOW EXPECTATIONS OUT OF THE WATER

And finally, yesterday was the scheduled final day of open enrollment. Despite the widespread attempts at sabotage by the Trump Administration, from cutting the sign-up period in half to dropping advertising by ninety percent, we have already reached 96% of last year’s enrollment total:

  • Nearly 8.8 million people signed up for coverage through HealthCare.gov.
  • Demand from new consumers outpaced new enrollments every single week of last year, with 2.5 million new people signing up for coverage.
  • Almost 6.3 million returning consumers actively renewed their coverage or were automatically re-enrolled compared to 6.2 million people last year.

A Year Later: President Trump’s Broken Health Care Promises

Enough Is Enough Graphic

Last year, in his first address to a joint session of Congress, President Donald Trump made several promises to the American people about what type of health care plan he would support. Tonight, as he makes his first official State of the Union address, we know he and his Republican allies in Congress broke those promises.

PRESIDENT TRUMP BROKE HIS PROMISE ON LOWERING HEALTH COSTS

WHAT TRUMP SAID: “The way to make health insurance available to everyone is to lower the cost of health insurance, and that is what we are going do.”

WHAT TRUMP DID: The health repeal plan House Republicans passed last year, and President Trump supported, ripped coverage away from 24 million people and raised premiums 20 percent. It imposed an age tax on older Americans by allowing insurers to charge people over 50 five times more.

PRESIDENT TRUMP BROKE HIS PROMISE ON PROTECTING PEOPLE WITH PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS

WHAT TRUMP SAID:We should ensure that Americans with preexisting conditions have access to coverage, and that we have a stable transition for Americans currently enrolled in the healthcare exchanges.”

WHAT TRUMP DID: The health repeal plan that House Republicans passed, and President Trump supported, raised costs on people with pre-existing conditions by allowing states to let insurers charge them more. This surcharge could be in the six figures: up to $4,270 for asthma, $17,060 for pregnancy, $26,180 for rheumatoid arthritis and $140,510 for metastatic cancer. The Trump Administration has also proposed rules that, if finalized, will allow health insurers to skirt protections for pre-existing conditions.

PRESIDENT TRUMP BROKE HIS PROMISE ON MEDICAID

WHAT TRUMP SAID: “We should give our great state governors the resources and flexibility they need with Medicaid to make sure no one is left out.”

WHAT TRUMP DID: The health repeal bill House Republicans passed, and President Trump supported, ended Medicaid as we know it, slashing it to the tune of $839 billion, or 25 percent, and converting it into a “per capita cap”, thus ending guaranteed coverage for everyone who qualifies, chiefly seniors, children and people with disabilities. It also ended Medicaid expansion. As a result, 14 million people were estimated to lose their coverage under the plan.

PRESIDENT TRUMP BROKE HIS PROMISE ON WOMEN’S HEALTH

WHAT TRUMP SAID:My administration wants to work with members of both parties to … invest in women’s health…”

WHAT TRUMP DID: The Trump Administration and its Republican allies in Congress waged a war on women’s health last year, including efforts to defund Planned Parenthood; taking direct aim at birth control by rolling back the copay-free coverage requirement in the Affordable Care Act; proposing drastic cuts to Medicaid; putting anti-choice judges on the federal bench; and raising costs on women by making them pay more for maternity care.

PRESIDENT TRUMP BROKE HIS PROMISE ON OPIOIDS

WHAT TRUMP SAID:We will expand treatment for those who have become so badly addicted.”

WHAT TRUMP DID: The House repeal plan Republicans passed, and President Trump supported, would make the opioid crisis worse. The repeal bill eliminated the parity requirement that mental health and addiction services be covered under the Medicaid expansion, and the plan put states on the hook for the full cost of dealing with the crisis by proposing drastic Medicaid cuts.

PRESIDENT TRUMP BROKE HIS PROMISE ON PRESCRIPTION DRUGS

WHAT TRUMP SAID: “[We should] work to bring down the artificially high price of drugs, and bring them down immediately.”

WHAT TRUMP DID: Bringing down prescription drug prices has not been a priority for the Trump Administration this past year. Just yesterday, President Trump installed a former Big Pharma executive, Alex Azar, as the new secretary of Health and Human Services.

Protect Our Care Blasts Alex Azar Confirmation as HHS Secretary

Washington, DC – After the Senate voted to confirm Alex Azar as the Trump Administration’s Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), Protect Our Care Campaign Director Brad Woodhouse issued the following statement:

“As the victims of the Trump Administration’s war on health care keep piling up, Senate Republicans just confirmed Big Pharma lobbyist Alex Azar to become President Trump’s sabotage sidekick at HHS. Throughout his confirmation process, Azar lied about the Trump Administration’s Affordable Care Act sabotage while embracing the Republican agenda to take coverage from millions of Americans, raise costs for millions more and gut protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Even as Donald Trump and the GOP install an anti-ACA Big Pharma lobbyist to lead HHS, the American people continue to reject their harmful agenda. Nearly 9 million people signed up for HealthCare.gov coverage despite every obstacle this Administration threw at them, and the ACA is more popular than ever. Enough is enough – it’s time for the GOP to come to the table and work with Democrats on bipartisan measures to stabilize the marketplace and expand coverage, just as the American people have said they want. It’s time for Donald Trump, Alex Azar and Congressional Republicans to end their war on America’s health care.”

Azar Fails Confirmation Questioning, Refuses to Protect Our Care

Following Alex Azar’s refusal to commit to protecting Americans’ care at this morning’s Senate Finance Committee hearing, Protect Our Care Campaign Director Brad Woodhouse released the following statement:

“Alex Azar failed the American people at his confirmation hearing today by refusing to signal an end to the Trump Administration’s sabotage and to promise that he would protect our care. Azar showed that we can’t trust him to defend Americans’ coverage by endorsing Republicans’ wildly unpopular proposal to cut Medicaid through block grants. And as a former Big Pharma lobbyist, Azar failed to offer any assurances he would address spiking drug costs with his out-of-touch claim that costs will always go up. If confirmed as Secretary, Azar would be empowered to accelerate the Republican war on health care. Because of Azar’s failure at today’s hearing, Senators must reject his nomination.”