Good morning ... And congrats to the Washington Capitals, who are headed to the Stanley Cup finals. This might be enough to get me to watch a hockey game, for the first time in my life.
Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images
New figures from the Congressional Budget Office put a finer point on just how bad things are getting for Affordable Care Act premiums:
Why now: Insurance premiums tend to go up every year, but the magnitude of these increases stems largely from the repeal of the ACA's individual mandate, the expansion of skimpy short-term plans, and the decision last year to cut off the law's cost-sharing payments.
What's next: Although the administration hasn't teed up any new policy announcements lately, senior officials from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association told reporters yesterday that there's still reason to be nervous.
Vox has another installment in its series on emergency room billing, and it's (once again) a doozy. This time, a patient went to an in-network hospital for emergency jaw surgery, but received treatment from an out-of-network surgeon and thus found himself responsible for a nearly $8,000 hospital bill.
Why it matters: Even the most responsible of patients — like this one, who made sure the hospital he was in was in-network before undergoing surgery — are getting stuck between insurers and providers who can't agree on rates, finding themselves on the hook for medical bills that the average person can't afford.
Some eye-popping statistics, from Vox:
The federal Medicare agency took one of the first tangible steps yesterday toward implementing President Trump’s plan to lower drug costs — except it mainly entailed hyping the plan and then reiterating existing policy.
The details: In a letter to Medicare drug plans, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma tackled the issue of “gag clauses” — policies that prevent a pharmacist from telling patients when paying cash would be cheaper than using their insurance.
Expect more of this. Similar to the FDA’s decision to start publicly naming the drug companies that have been accused of thwarting generic competition, a lot of the early steps here will be more about tone than actual policy changes.
Axios’ Bob Herman flags some edits the Trump administration has made to Medicare’s annual handbook — specifically, edits that promote Medicare Advantage.
What they’re saying: Consumer advocates say the federal government is "distorting and mischaracterizing the facts in serious ways."
The big changes: A new section of the handbook describes how people in Medicare Advantage plans "have the right to request a preauthorization" for equipment or services, and frames prior authorizations (when the health insurer has to approve care will be covered) as a way to shop.
The other side: A spokesperson for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said the agency continues "to modify and improve the content to help consumers make informed health care decisions" and uses feedback from groups "along with multiple rounds of consumer testing to inform the final product."
Go deeper: The full list of noteworthy changes.