Jul 11, 2017

Alaska gets ACA waiver to expand reinsurance program

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

The Trump administration today approved Alaska's proposal to expand a reinsurance program to cover high-cost patients — the first of what it says will be many state waivers from Affordable Care Act rules. Under the "Section 1332" waiver, Alaska will get extra federal funds to cover the costs of people with 33 expensive illnesses. The state told the Department of Health and Human Services it expects the program to reduce ACA premiums for everyone else by 20 percent.

Why it matters: HHS Secretary Tom Price has been encouraging other states to apply for the 1332 waivers, since it's one way the Trump administration can promote more state flexibility under the ACA even if Congress doesn't rewrite the law. Alaska is also using an approach the administration likes: directly subsidizing patients with expensive conditions so their costs don't raise premiums for healthy customers.

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Heat wave melts 20% of snow cover from Antarctic island in days

The effects of February's record heat wave on Eagle Island in Antarctica. Photo: NASA

Antarctica's Eagle Island now has a side that's almost ice-free following this month's searing heat wave in the region, images released by NASA show.

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