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This Week in Health Care Reform: March 2nd, 2018

A bipartisan group of governors offers up a health care blueprint; stakeholders continue to focus on social determinants of health; and, lawmakers introduce legislation aimed at combatting the opioid epidemic.

Week in Review

Bipartisan Compromise: Late last week, a bipartisan group of governors put forth a health care blueprint that they believe would help policymakers find their way to a substantive compromise on the contentious policy issues continuing to muddy the path forward.  In town for their annual Winter Meeting, the group, led by Govs. John Kasich (R-Ohio) and John Hickenlooper (D-Colorado), offered up their proposal, having spent more than a year identifying common ground in a number of key policy areas, including health care.  Specifically, their plan focuses on improving affordability, restoring stability, and promoting flexibility for the states as they seek to innovate and eliminate burdensome and duplicative health insurance regulations, which they argue will lead to cost savings.  The governors also urged the Administration to restore the cost-sharing reduction subsidy payments and to recommit resources to outreach in signing up people for coverage.

SDoH Focus: As our general approach to overall health evolves to include total population health management, it stands to reason that that focus would, by necessity, also include consideration of the role that social determinants of health (SDoH) play in a person’s well-being.  For instance, our recognition of the challenges that patients can face around secure housing, access to food, or transportation to and from appointments, has begun to inform our understanding of the holistic needs that are an integral component of overall health.  Policymakers and funders have worked to fold the consideration of social and economic factors into their modeling.  Meanwhile, the majority of payers have also integrated a focus on SDoH into their member programs, embracing digital health tools as a means of mitigating some of the logistical barriers that have stood in the way of access.

Opioid Bills:
On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of Senators introduced legislation authorizing $1 billion in additional funding specifically targeted at combatting the opioid epidemic.  The bill, framed as a follow-up to the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) that was signed into law in 2016, would impose new rules to restrict access to opioids, while also opening up access to addiction treatment.  Dubbed CARA 2.0, the legislation features a combination of policy changes and funding authorizations.  A similar bill is coming together out of the House Energy & Commerce Committee.     

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As highlighted last week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is currently considering underlying changes to how the popular Medicare Advantage program is administered and funded.  While some of the provisions support Medicare Advantage health plans’ ability to connect the millions of vulnerable beneficiaries with the coordinated care that’s proven to be so effective, other provisions, if enacted, would only serve to unravel the program’s comprehensive blanket of care.  Earlier this week, we asked you, our Health Action Network members to support the efforts to protect this program, and hundreds of you responded.  If you haven’t already, take a moment to lend your voice to the cause and urge your lawmakers to tell CMS to protect this important program.  Act now!

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