LAST WEEK IN REVIEW: Monday, Nov. 13th – Friday, Nov. 17th
It was a busy week at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb outlining a comprehensive new framework for the agency’s regenerative medicine policy and later detailing efforts to resolve the prescription drug and IV fluid manufacturing shortages caused by Hurricane Maria’s destruction in Puerto Rico. At the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), premiums and deductibles for Medicare Parts A and B were announced, and a new proposed rule was issued proposing significant policy changes to Medicare Advantage (Part C) and Part D—estimated to save nearly $1 billion over the next five years. Finally, the FDA, CMS and other agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) received word early last week that their next boss may be former George W. Bush appointee and pharmaceutical executive, Alex Azar, who was nominated by President Trump for Secretary of HHS.
At midweek, CMS updated its open enrollment numbers to reflect the first week and a half of sign-ups on healthcare.gov. Nearly 1.5 million people have selected coverage plans on the exchanges through the first 11 days—continuing to outstrip the pace of last year’s open enrollment period. Still, it remains difficult to project if this pace can continue, with a range of theories as to the drivers of this year’s enrollment boom in the first few days.
While Americans continue to sign up for health insurance, policymakers continue to debate whether or not they should be required by law to do so. The Senate decided to include a repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual mandate in its version of a tax reform bill, which will be released in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, the House of Representatives voted Thursday to approve their own version of a tax bill, which did not include a repeal of the individual mandate. The House version of the bill did, however, include the controversial elimination of deductions for medical expenses (which we discussed in our Spotlight two weeks ago).
But the most shocking news of the week came with a revelation that Charlottesville, VA was home to America’s most expensive plans in the ACA’s marketplace. With insurers and policy experts weighing-in to try to explain this unsettling finding in our own back yard, we decided to use this week’s Spotlight to review expert opinions on the unique drivers of insurance premiums in ACA individual health insurance marketplace.
Student Contributors on this Article:
Marissa Alvarez, Chad Fletcher, Shaina Haque