Misty Williams

Care With a Side of Comfort Promises Big Savings in Health Costs
Experiments targeting housing, transportation, food and other nonmedical services are flourishing

As state and federal officials increasingly search for ways to curb rising health care costs, a decades-old idea is gaining traction: helping people with challenges that have nothing to do with medical care but everything to do with their health.

Insurers are taking steps as simple as paying for hot meal deliveries and outreach to homebound people and replacing air filters in homes with asthmatic children. More radical approaches include building affordable housing for people who don’t have a stable home of their own.

With Divided Congress, Health Care Action Hightails It to the States
Medicaid expansion was the biggest winner in last week’s elections

Newly-elected leaders in the states will be in a stronger position than those in Washington to steer significant shifts in health care policy over the next couple of years as a divided Congress struggles with gridlock.

State Medicaid work requirements, prescription drug prices, insurance exchanges and short-term health plans are among the areas with the potential for substantial change. Some states with new Democratic leaders may also withdraw from a multistate lawsuit aimed at killing the 2010 health care law or look for ways to curb Trump administration policies.

November Elections Bring High Stakes for Medicaid
From expansion to work requirements, the future of the program hangs in the balance

The midterm elections could bring sweeping changes to Medicaid, from possible eligibility expansions to new rules requiring low-income people to work, depending on voters’ choices for governors’ offices and state legislatures across the country.

Medicaid covers more people than any other federally funded health program.

Universal Vaccine Research Moves Ahead After Deadly Flu Season
Yearly vaccines still only 10 to 60 percent effective, NIH official says

Scientists from across the country and the globe are making progress toward developing a universal flu vaccine, but reaching that goal will likely still take years, a top administration health official said Wednesday.

The National Institutes of Health recently funded a phase two clinical trial of what is one of several likely candidates for a universal influenza vaccine, said Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is part of the NIH. The first version of a vaccine that might protect against any type of flu likely won’t actually be universal but more targeted to specific strains, though, Fauci said.

Fall Elections Key Moment in Medicaid Expansion Debate
Recent developments in Virginia are giving advocates hope

The midterm elections are poised to play a pivotal role in whether more states expand Medicaid eligibility, as the number of red-state holdouts dwindles.

Governors’ races in states such as Florida and Kansas, along with ballot initiatives in Idaho, Nebraska and Utah, are being watched closely by Medicaid experts this year.

For Some in Congress, the Opioid Crisis Is Personal
Lawmakers share the stories behind their efforts to combat the epidemic

As drug overdoses climb — rising 12 percent between October 2016 and October 2017 — Congress has floated dozens of proposals to combat opioid abuse.

Some lawmakers have deeply personal connections to the epidemic of addiction in America. These are their stories.

Medicare Finances Worsen but Social Security Projections Stable
Changes by Congress to tax law, entitlements affect projections

The Social Security system is in almost the same shape as last year for its retirement benefits and in a better position for its disability benefits, the program’s trustees reported Tuesday. But a separate report for Medicare paints a somewhat bleaker outlook for the giant health program for seniors and people with disabilities, estimating that its hospital trust fund will dry up in 2026 — three years earlier than last year’s projections.

Medicare’s board of trustees attributed the change, in part, to lower payroll taxes and higher-than-expected health care spending in 2017.

CMS Launches New System to Measure State Medicaid Performance
Scorecards will initially focus heavily on metrics that states already voluntarily report

Federal health officials on Monday unveiled a new system to measure how effectively states are running their Children’s Health Insurance Program and Medicaid systems.

The scorecards will initially focus heavily on metrics that states already voluntarily report to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, such as well-child visits and chronic health conditions, CMS Administrator Seema Verma said during a press briefing. While many measures already existed, this marks the first time they are all being compiled together, Verma said.

Medicaid Won’t Look the Same Next Year
From expansions to work mandates, states seek sweeping changes in 2018

This year could mark a significant shift for Medicaid programs across the country, as some states look to expand the government insurance program to more poor Americans while others seek to add more requirements for people who benefit.

Initiatives to get Medicaid expansion put on the November ballot are underway in Utah, Nebraska, Idaho and Montana. And Virginia lawmakers appear on the verge of securing an expansion deal, after years of rejecting the idea.

Medicaid Work Debate Gets a Tennessee Twist
Federal government would need to sign off on state proposal

A growing number of mostly Republican-led states are itching to create work requirements for people on Medicaid, but finding a way to pay for it could prove challenging.

In Tennessee, lawmakers want to add a Medicaid work mandate, but only if they can use federal — not state — dollars to make it happen. And they think there may be a way to do just that.

Medicaid Changes Require Tens of Millions in Upfront Costs
But Kentucky governor says move will eventually yield savings for state

The addition of work requirements and other sweeping changes to Kentucky’s Medicaid program could cost nearly $187 million in the first six months alone to get up and running. 

Republican Gov. Matt Bevin projects that the program will eventually yield savings but the changes require an upfront investment in administrative expenses. Much of that money is aimed at creating complex electronic systems and other changes needed to track work hours, monthly premium payments and other elements of Kentucky’s recently approved plan to revamp the government insurance program for low-income Americans.

More States Jump on Medicaid Work Requirements Bandwagon

A growing number of mostly Republican-led states are rushing to follow Kentucky’s lead in requiring thousands of people on Medicaid to work or lose health coverage.

The governors of South Dakota, Alabama, Louisiana and South Carolina have said in recent weeks that they plan to pursue work requirements for their Medicaid programs, following the Trump administration’s release of guidelines for the concept in January.