Good morning … Sens. Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray got some good news yesterday from the Congressional Budget Office. But, for the time being, the real action is in the administration.
The Affordable Care Act's fifth open enrollment period begins in less than a week. And it's going to be a wild one.
Sea change: With a shorter open-enrollment window, fewer intermediate deadlines and barely any money for consumer outreach, this enrollment season will look a lot different from the four before it.
The countdown: Six days.
It was no big surprise when U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria ruled yesterday the Trump administration does not have to keep paying the ACA's cost-sharing subsidies. But Chhabria didn't only side with President Trump. He also took to task the 18 state attorneys general who brought the case.
Key quote: "If the states are so concerned that people will be scared away from the exchanges by the thought of higher premiums, perhaps they should stop yelling about higher premiums. With open enrollment just days away, perhaps the states should focus instead on communicating the message that they have devised a response…that will prevent harm to the large majority of people while in fact allowing millions of lower-income people to get a better deal on health insurance in 2018."
The issue: The states wanted Chhabria to force Trump to immediately reinstate the cost-sharing payments, arguing that without them, premiums would rise and their insurance markets could plunge into a death spiral. But, as Chhabria noted, at length, the states spent a lot of time planning for this contingency.
Health care mergers and acquisitions have kept bankers and consultants busy since the ACA went into effect. The health care industry has initiated more than 200 deals per quarter for 12 straight quarters, including 211 in the third quarter of 2017, according to a report from PwC.
A few additional highlights, courtesy of Axios' Bob Herman:
People count on hospice care in their most difficult moments, but caregivers are often unreachable or inattentive, even in crisis situations, according to a new investigation from Kaiser Health News and Time magazine.
Why it matters: Patients and families turn to hospice when they think death is near — a time when people need a lot of help, both practically and emotionally. And Medicare pays hospice programs roughly $16 billion per year.
Go deeper: Read the investigation.
Scott Gottlieb, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, is already winning praise from public health advocates on both sides of the aisle for embracing medication-assisted treatment as a solution to the opioid crisis.
Buzz: He's stated that position before, but made waves at a House committee hearing yesterday with an especially vigorous defense of the policy. Medication-assisted therapy would allow people who have abused or overdosed on opioids to be treated with less potent, less addictive drugs as part of their recovery, rather than requiring them to abstain from all painkillers.
Correction: An item in yesterday's newsletter, in the second story, mentioned a letter from House lawmakers about the medical device tax. It was signed by more than 175 House members, including 43 Democrats. I regret the error.
What we're watching today: Trump makes an announcement about the opioid crisis.
What we're watching this week: Former HHS secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell gives a speech on health care Friday.
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