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This Week in Health Care Reform: November 3rd, 2017

Open enrollment begins; House lawmakers vote on CHIP reauthorization; recommendations are made to combat the opioid crisis; and, stakeholders push for the expanded use of telehealth.

Week in Review

Open Enrollment: Consumers looking to secure health care coverage through the insurance exchange marketplaces for 2018 now have until December 15th to finalize their determinations, as Wednesday marked the beginning of this year’s open enrollment period.  Unlike in previous years, though, the level of uncertainty surrounding the future of the exchanges has left many consumers understandably confused.  For their part, stakeholders are doing what they can to ensure shoppers have access to the tools they need to make informed decisions regarding their coverage needs for next year.

CHIP Reauthorization: Earlier today, the House passed a funding extension for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).  Despite CHIP traditionally enjoying broad bipartisan support, the bill only passed along party lines owing to the largely contentious debate leading up to its making its way to the floor, with Democrats standing in opposition to the spending offsets proposed by Republicans to cover the costs of the five-year extension.  Those offsets, achieved largely by cutting public health funding under the Affordable Care Act, have threatened to upend the ongoing negotiations to advance a funding reauthorization bill in the weeks since CHIP expired at the end of September.

Opioid Recommendations:
As anticipated, the President’s Commission on Combating Addiction and the Opioid Crisis made public their recommendations to address the issue ravaging communities across the country.  Largely informed by public meetings and stakeholder input, the final report includes dozens of recommendations, all of which constitute a wide-ranging menu of actions aimed at combating the opioid epidemic.  While noted for its ambitious approach to tackling the issue, skeptics were left wondering how to pay for the new initiatives and whether or not Congress will move to enact them.

Telehealth Adoption:
With so much of the conversation surrounding ways to reform our health care system colliding with the political realities of enacting substantive change, it’s not hard to miss the practical enhancements that have quietly been reshaping how and when and where we access that care.  Those improvements have mostly been realized through the widespread adoption by stakeholders – providers, patients, and payers – of telehealth and its attendant benefits.  Lawmakers have also sought to capitalize on the promise of telehealth, seeking to advance legislation that would allow for its expanded utilization.      

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CBO estimates that Medicare will spend approximately $700 billion on payments to health plans and providers in 2017.  As policymakers and regulators focus on programmatic innovations tailored to address the costs of beneficiaries with multiple chronic conditions, a new study seeks to draw attention to one population group that they may have overlooked: The 13 percent of Medicare beneficiaries who require long-term services and supports (LTSS).

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