Welcome to Thursday’s Overnight Health Care. The CDC has updated its case count for the vaping illness outbreak, and Indiana is suspending its Medicaid work requirements. Meanwhile, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) laid out his much anticipated health care plan. But the big news is ObamaCare and the new open enrollment period which starts tomorrow.
New ObamaCare enrollment period faces Trump headwinds
When ObamaCare’s open enrollment period begins Friday, many people can expect to find lower premiums and more plan options on healthcare.gov.
But experts and advocates are projecting the number of enrollees for 2020 will decrease for a fourth consecutive year, in large part because of actions taken by the Trump administration.
“I expect to see a decline in enrollment because of the long list of things working against it,” said Josh Peck, who oversaw ObamaCare enrollment efforts from 2014 to 2017.
Enrollment has slipped in recent years, from a high of 12.7 million in 2016 to 11.4 million in 2019.
Democrats have accused President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he would be willing to do ‘fireside chat’ reading the Zelensky transcript Krystal Ball: ‘The weird obsession and freakout over Tulsi Gabbard has massively helped her’ Trump says poor treatment and high taxes prompted permanent residence change MORE and his administration of “sabotaging” the 2010 health care law by backing a lawsuit that seeks to overturn it, loosening regulations on the sale of non-ObamaCare plans, cutting federal funds for marketing and outreach efforts, and ending payments to insurers that go toward reducing costs for low-income customers.
Still, there are signs the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplaces are holding steady. Health insurance premiums have decreased, on average, from last year, and increased insurer participation means consumers will have more plan options.
“Generally speaking, the markets have proven to be more resilient than many would have given it credit for, and I think there are several positive trends for the market and the people signing up for it,” said Cynthia Cox, director of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s ACA program. “The market is still relatively stable despite the policy changes that have been put in place over the last few years.”
Read more on the upcoming enrollment period here.
Indiana suspends Medicaid work requirements, citing legal challenge
The latest blow for a signature Trump administration health care policy: Indiana announced Thursday that it is suspending its Medicaid work requirements until a lawsuit challenging them is completed.
Indiana’s state government cited a lawsuit filed against the work requirements in federal court last month, by the same advocates who have been successful in getting Medicaid work requirements struck down in other states.
A federal district judge has already struck down Medicaid work requirements in Arkansas, Kentucky and New Hampshire. Those cases are now being appealed.
Big picture: The Trump administration has approved Medicaid work requirements for the first time in the history of the program in states that have chosen to apply. The Trump administration argues the move helps lift people out of poverty by making sure they are working.
But Democrats say the work requirements simply results in people losing health coverage when they are confronted with bureaucratic hurdles to prove they are working.
In Arkansas, the one state where work requirements went into effect before being blocked by a judge, more than 18,000 people lost coverage.
Read more here.
Social conservatives press Trump to keep ban on mint, menthol e-cigs
Finally, Trump is getting some support from conservatives for his proposed ban on flavored e-cigarette products.
Social conservatives are urging the Trump administration to not back away from plans to include mint and menthol flavors in a ban on flavored vaping products.
The leaders of Eagle Forum and the Republican National Committee’s (RNC) former director of faith engagement, along with others, sent Trump a letter Wednesday expressing concern over a recent report that the Trump administration was reconsidering banning mint and menthol products amid pressure from e-cigarette advocates.
They argue that the administration cannot “claim to be fighting the youth vaping epidemic” while leaving out these favors and urge Trump “not to back down in the face of pressure from Big Tobacco,” according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Hill. The letter cites recent Food and Drug Administration (FDA) data showing that almost 64 percent of high school students who vape use mint or menthol flavors.
Why it matters: Several conservative groups had already come out against the ban and are pressuring Trump to abandon it.
Read more here.
CDC reports 1,888 illnesses, including 37 deaths, caused by vaping
The number of people who have become sick after vaping is nearing 2,000, according to new data released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
As of Tuesday, the CDC had confirmed 1,888 probable lung injury cases associated with vaping since the outbreak started earlier this year.
That’s an increase of 284 cases from last week. The CDC also confirmed 37 deaths in 24 states and D.C., an increase of three fatalities from last week.
The CDC still hasn’t identified a specific product or ingredient that is making people sick.
Most of the patients had vaped THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, before becoming ill; many had purchased those products off the street.
More on the latest numbers here.
Georgia governor’s health care plan would allow subsidies to pay for ObamaCare alternatives
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) unveiled a health care proposal Thursday that would allow residents to use ObamaCare subsidies for plans that don’t meet the law’s coverage requirements.
Under the plan, which must be approved by the Trump administration before taking effect, the subsidies could be used to buy short-term and association health plans that are typically cheaper than ObamaCare but cover fewer benefits.
“Through these new, innovative measures Georgians will have access to more insurance options like association health plans that cover our friends and neighbors with pre-existing conditions,” Kemp said Thursday at an event announcing the plan.
Why it matters: The Trump administration has already indicated it would approve state programs that would allow subsidies to pay for plans that don’t comply with the law’s coverage requirements.
Experts say this could lead to price increases for ObamaCare plans.
Read more here.
What we’re reading
Stable costs but more uninsured as ‘ObamaCare’ sign-ups open (Associated Press)
A federal court may soon do what Congress could not: Obliterate ObamaCare (Slate)
Why ‘Medicare for All’ could both raise taxes and lower costs (New York Times)
State by state
Hearing concludes in licensing case for Missouri’s only abortion clinic (NBC News)
ObamaCare enrollment begins Friday, and Utahns should have more plans to choose from (Salt Lake Tribune)
State of Virginia sues Teva Pharmaceuticals over opioids (Associated Press)
The Hill op-eds
We’ll need a lot more billionaires to fund Bernie Sanders’ ‘Medicare for All’