How Dental Inequality Hurts Americans

February 19, 2018, The New York Times, Austin Frakt- Even before any proposed cuts take effect, Medicaid is already lean in one key area: Many state programs lack coverage for dental care. That can be bad news not only for people’s overall well-being but also for their ability to find and keep a job. Not being able to see a dentist is related to a range of health problems. Periodontal disease (gum infection) is associated with an increased risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases. In part, this reflects how people with oral health problems tend to be less healthy in other ways; diabetes and smoking, for instance, increase the chances of cardiovascular problems and endanger mouth health. There is also a causal explanation for how oral health issues can lead to or worsen other illnesses. Bacteria originating in oral infections can circulate elsewhere, contributing to heart disease and strokes.

Time to increase Mississippi’s tobacco tax

February 17, 2018, The Clarion-Ledger, Lynn Evans- If there were a way to reduce deaths from cancer, heart disease and strokes, reduce infant mortality and prematurity, and save the state coffers about $4.25 million in Medicaid costs over the next five years, you would think state leaders would be falling all over themselves to do it. The one easy way to accomplish all these things and increase state revenues at a time when Mississippi sorely needs to do so is to increase the tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products by at least $1.50 a pack. The best reason to increase Mississippi’s tobacco tax is that it will result in 26,500 current adult smokers quitting and 22,800 children and teens who will never start smoking, according to Tobacco-Free Kids. Increasing Mississippi’s tobacco tax is so difficult because of our state’s strong Libertarian bent, the belief of many legislators that they will be punished by voters if they support increasing tobacco taxes, and Big Tobacco’s willingness to spend if any state seems poised to increase its tobacco tax.

Why the courts may overturn Medicaid work requirements

February 16, 2018, Fierce Healthcare, Leslie Small- With one lawsuit already challenging Medicaid work requirements in Kentucky and more possible in other states, health policy watchers have one burning question: What will the courts decide? According to Eliot Fishman-who was the director of the State Demonstrations Group at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services from 2013 until early 2017-there’s a good chance that judges will overturn those waiver approvals. For one thing, the work requirement component of the waivers in question is a “particularly blatant attempt” to make changes to Medicaid that couldn’t be achieved through legislation, Fishman wrote in a Health Affairs blog post. He argued that the courts will likely take note of the fact that previous Affordable Care Act repeal-and-replace bills tried to impose work requirements in Medicaid.

160 organizations tell HHS they oppose Medicaid work requirements

February 16, 2018, The Hill, Rachel Roubein- About 160 organizations are vocalizing their opposition to the administration’s recent decision to let states implement Medicaid work requirements, arguing the policy is “directly at odds” with the country’s efforts to fight the opioid crisis and improve re-entry from prisons. Last month, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued guidance for states on designing work requirements in Medicaid, which marked a major conservative shift for the health insurance program for low-income and poor Americans. The department has since greenlighted such measures in Kentucky and Indiana, allowing the states to impose a community engagement requirement - meaning certain Medicaid beneficiaries must be involved in such activities like work, volunteer, be enrolled in job training or school in order to obtain Medicaid coverage.

Repealing individual mandate penalty will cause spike in uninsured: CMS

February 14, 2018, Modern Healthcare, Virgil Dickson- The Trump administration is projecting that nearly 8 million people will voluntarily lose insurance in the next eight years as a result of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s financial penalty for not having health insurance. In all, 37.7 million people will be uninsured by 2026, up from the estimated 30 million in 2018, according to an analysis CMS actuaries released Wednesday. “These estimates assume that some younger and healthier people will choose to be uninsured, particularly those with comparatively higher incomes who would not qualify for premium subsidies in the marketplaces,” Gigi Cuckler, senior economist in the office of the actuary at the CMS said at a news briefing.

US spending on health care estimated to reach $5.7 trillion in 2026

February 14, 2018, The Hill, Jessie Hellmann- Spending on health care in the U.S. will grow faster than the overall economy for the foreseeable future, according to a government report released Wednesday. Health spending is expected to increase 5.5 percent annually through 2026, according to a report from the actuaries at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). That’s 1 percentage point faster than economic growth projections. Overall, health spending is projected to make up 19.7 percent of the U.S. economy in 2026, up from 17.9 percent in 2016. In total, spending on health care in the U.S. is estimated to reach $5.7 trillion in 2026, about $2 trillion higher than this year. HHS attributed the hike to the increases in prices for medical goods and services for aging baby boomers.