Good morning ... A “bacon vending machine” cannot possibly be any good. You know it, I know it, the American people know it.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
Open enrollment for Medicare ends today, and privately run Medicare Advantage plans will likely continue to grow. But some consumer advocates tell my colleague Bob Herman they're worried that the Trump administration is steering people into MA while giving short shrift to its limitations.
Where it stands: MA enrollment is approaching 22 million people, and it has risen steadily even as the Affordable Care Act cut insurers' payments for the program. There are reasons for its popularity.
Yes, but: Federal marketing materials rarely mention MA's tradeoffs.
The big picture: The Trump administration has been talking up MA in emails to prospective enrollees, as the New York Times recently reported. But some experts just aren't convinced that seniors are especially rigorous shoppers when deciding on a health plan.
Bob also has the lowdown on yesterday's update on national health expenditures.
By the numbers: The U.S. spent almost $3.5 trillion on hospitals, doctors, prescription drugs, medical devices and other health care services in 2017.
Between the lines: Total spending for 2017 was 3.9% higher than the health care tab from 2016 — a rate of growth that's lower than originally expected, and also slower than growth in the overall economy.
We're probably in for a second straight year of declining enrollment through HealthCare.gov. The pace of sign-ups this year continues to lag noticeably behind last year's, and last year marked a modest decline from the year before that.
By the numbers: Just shy of 3.2 million people have picked plans through the federally run exchanges so far. That's about 12% lower than the 3.6 million who had signed up at the same time last year.
Many of the poorest enrollees are eligible for plans with a $0 premium, thanks to generous subsidies (but those plans come with higher out-of-pocket costs).
What's next: Enrollment will likely spike ahead of the Dec. 15 sign-up deadline, but it would need to be a substantially bigger-than-usual jump to make up the ground that's been lost so far.
Insurance premiums, combined with total deductibles, add up to 12% of workers' median incomes, according to a new analysis from the Commonwealth Fund. Overall costs have been rising steadily for years, and workers' share of those costs have been growing even faster.
Details: Unsurprisingly, health care coverage is especially expensive in the South and in rural areas, which often have less competition among providers and sicker populations.
Maine voters approved the state's Medicaid expansion in 2017. In early 2019, it'll finally happen.
The bottom line: Maine's Medicaid program will finally, actually expand within a month of LePage leaving office.
Why it matters: The successful ballot initiative in Maine inspired three more this year — all of them successful — and advocates are already looking ahead to the states where similar ballot questions could stand a good chance in 2020.