Good Thursday morning.
Enrollment through the Affordable Care Act's exchanges is getting off to a somewhat sluggish start, compared to the last sign-up period.
By the numbers: A little over 370,000 people selected plans through HealthCare.gov in the first 3 days of open enrollment, according to figures the Health and Human Services Department released yesterday.
Between the lines: This is a pretty straightforward apples-to-apples comparison of the first few days of enrollment. Last year's totals include one extra day, but it's hard to imagine how that could explain a 40% drop in sign-ups.
There's still time for things to turn around: This report covers the first week of a 6-week enrollment window, and sign-ups usually surge at the end.
Meanwhile, HHS released a new proposed rule yesterday on "program integrity" for the exchanges.
Another significant change in HHS' program integrity rule: The department wants insurers to send consumers separate bills for medical coverage and whatever coverage they might provide for abortion.
How it works: Federal law says federal funding — including premium subsidies under the ACA — can't be used to cover abortion, and requires insurers to segregate the money they use to provide coverage for abortion services.
On a similar note, HHS also finalized rules yesterday making it easier for employers to opt out of the ACA's contraception mandate if they have religious — or, in some cases, moral — objections to birth control.
The other side: ACA legal expert Nicholas Bagley has argued that the exemption for moral objections is illegal.
Between the midterms and Jeff Sessions’ departure as attorney general, medical marijuana is really … riding high. (I’m so sorry.)
Driving the news: Shares of the medical marijuana company Tilray surged after Jeff Sessions resigned as attorney general. Sessions was ardently opposed to legal weed. (“Good people don’t smoke marijuana,” he once declared.)
Why it matters: Marijuana could be an effective alternative to opioids for pain treatment. And Tuesday’s ballot measures are part of a partial but undeniable shift toward broader legalization — a shift that Sessions decidedly did not facilitate.
Humana CFO Brian Kane was noncommittal yesterday when a Wall Street analyst asked how much the company's bottom line would benefit next year from the suspension of the ACA's tax on insurers.
Yes, but: Those savings have already been modeled, according to a review of other Wall Street analysts’ estimates.
Go deeper: The health insurance industry will pocket at least $750 million in profits from the ACA tax moratorium.
Tuesday’s congressional elections will likely have the effect of pushing policymaking away from Congress and into the states, the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Drew Altman writes in his latest Axios column.
What to watch: Blue states will continue to go their own way, trying to strengthen regulations to control costs, protect consumers and improve their Medicaid programs.
The bottom line: Proposals in Congress and on the campaign trail are important because they can shape the agenda after 2020. But for now, the states are where the real action is.