Good morning ... That shutdown did not seem to accomplish much. So let's do it again in a few weeks!
After more than three months, Congress finally managed to break a logjam that didn’t need to exist.
What's happening: Lawmakers voted yesterday to extend funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program for six years — a move that’s popular, bipartisan, costs the federal government nothing, and yet languished since October, when Congress let the program’s funding expire.
Why you’ll hear about this again: As my colleague Caitlin Owens reports this morning, we’ll probably keep hearing about CHIP well into this year’s campaign season.
Go deeper: Read Caitlin’s story on Axios.com.
CHIP is taken care of, but a host of other health care “extenders” are still waiting for congressional action, including funds for community health centers and graduate medical education.
Where it stands: Those programs expired at the end of September along with CHIP, and were included in the stand-alone CHIP bill House Republicans passed in November, but didn’t make it into the spending bill that passed yesterday.
The bottom line: Government funding runs out again in 3 weeks, presenting another opportunity for these programs to find some funding — and another round of potential shutdown drama. But the 9 million kids covered by CHIP won’t be caught in the middle next time.
Health care spending is up. Way up. That’s because prices are up — and not because we’re using more health care, according to newly published data from the Health Care Cost Institute.
The numbers that matter: Health care spending grew by 4.5% from 2015 to 2016, yet utilization was steady — or, in some cases, actually declined — during the same period. According to HCCI’s analysis, which is limited to employer-sponsored coverage, the increase in spending was driven by steep increases in prices.
Context: Other studies have come to similar conclusions. But one person’s prices are another person’s salary, and that’s why it’s so difficult to find any sort of political mechanism to keep price increases in check.
A group of ex-Obama administration officials wrote a piece for Health Affairs suggesting what state Affordable Care Act marketplaces could do to avoid damage from Trump administration policies. Are you sitting down? The answer, basically, was: Do Obamacare.
The key recommendations:
The bottom line: It’s actually not surprising that they’d recommend ACA-type policies at the state level — because that’s the logical next step for ACA supporters if the Trump administration hands more decisions to the states.
Americans’ “health literacy” — our ability to understand things like medical bills, test results and other information we receive from the health care system — is generally pretty poor. So there’s a clear argument for trying to improve it.
Yes, but: Experts are nevertheless skeptical about Kentucky’s plan to attach health literacy courses to its new system of Medicaid work requirements.
How it works: Kentucky’s recently approved Medicaid waiver requires non-disabled adults to work or perform community service for 80 hours each month, or lose their Medicaid benefits. They can restore their coverage either by fulfilling the work requirement or completing state-approved courses on health and/or financial literacy.
Why it matters: Kentucky will not be the last state to enact this type of program.
What they’re saying: Medicare enrollees’ health literacy is just as poor as Medicaid recipients’, and people will likely have a harder time passing a health literacy test if they lack other forms of literacy, health care economist Austin Frakt writes in the NYT's The Upshot.
Correction: Yesterday's Vitals misidentified the source of a report about legal concerns surrounding a health care merger in North Carolina. It was the Raleigh News & Observer. Apologies for the error.
Please do NOT email me your opinion about who "won" the shutdown. The answer is no one, and you will never persuade me otherwise. But whatever other thoughts you might have, send 'em my way: email@example.com.