Mississippi’s Republican governor quietly considering Medicaid expansion

December 22, 2018, Politico, Paul Demko- Mississippi’s Republican governor is considering Medicaid expansion, the first sign that long-held GOP opposition could be wilting in the Deep South after an election that was a big winner for the Obamacare program. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, entering his final year in office, has been engaged in quiet talks about adopting expansion after resisting for years, according to two sources familiar with the discussions. The behind-the-scenes move comes as a surprisingly viable Democratic gubernatorial candidate is planning to make Medicaid expansion a central issue in the 2019 election. But in an even more unlikely scenario, Republicans could beat him to it and undercut a key Democratic message. Until now, Medicaid expansion has largely been ignored in the Republican-dominated state, one of the sickest and the poorest in the country. Even Mississippi Democrats have largely dismissed it as politically unviable since a 2012 Supreme Court decision made the program optional for states.

Medicaid Plans Cover Doctors’ Visits, Hospital Care - And Now Your GED

January 7, 2019, KHN, Phil Galewitz- Emilia Ford became pregnant at 15 and, after her daughter was born, dropped out of high school. As she held down different jobs during the past decade - including housekeeping and working in a relative’s retail store - she always thought about going for her GED to show she met high school academic skills. But the Brookhaven, Pa., woman needed assistance finding tutors and paying for the set of four tests, which cost $20 each. She found help from an unexpected source: her Medicaid health plan. AmeriHealth Caritas, a Philadelphia-based insurer with 2 million Medicaid members in Pennsylvania and five other states, helps connect members with nonprofit groups providing GED test preparation classes, offers telephone coaching to keep members on track and pays the testing fees. Ford is one of 62 plan members who have earned a GED certificate since the benefit began in 2013.

State policy experimentation likely to create uncertainty for providers in 2019

January 5, 2019, Modern Healthcare, Harris Meyer- The coming year will be one of state health policy experimentation that could lead to even wider healthcare disparities across the country. State initiatives could drive larger differences in insurance coverage rates, access to care and consumer protections. States already vary widely in their uninsured rates, ranging from 2.8% in Massachusetts to 17.3% in Texas in 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. With Congress likely deadlocked for the next two years between the Democratic-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate, states will be where any major health policy action takes place. Providers, health plans and consumers could face sharply different fates in different states. In Republican-led states, the likely initiatives will feature Medicaid work mandates through Section 1115 waivers; alternative coverage systems to the Affordable Care Act through Section 1332 innovation waivers; and leaner, cheaper health plans allowed by new CMS rules that don’t require consumer protections mandated by the ACA.

As Christmas holidays end, flu season picking up in Mississippi

January 3, 2019, Daily Journal, Michaela Gibson Morris- Kids are just heading back to school after the holidays, but Mississippi has already seen an uptick in flu cases. “We’re seeing geographic spread as well an increase in flu activity, and we are receiving reports of nursing home outbreaks,” said State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs in a statement released Thursday. The Mississippi State Health Department is seeing the increased activity as it compiles data from the end of 2018. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the predominant flu strain circulating now is H1N1, which has a tendency to affect children. Nationally, there have been 11 pediatric flu deaths reported; a South Mississippi child is among that number.

As health law case goes to appeals court, sign-ups steady

January 3, 2019, Associated Press, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar- Democratic attorneys general on Thursday appealed a federal court ruling that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional, as new enrollment numbers underscored the staying power of the Obama-era law. The government reported that about 8.4 million Americans have signed up this year under the law, reflecting steady demand for its subsidized health insurance. President Donald Trump still disdains “Obamacare,” but he failed to repeal it after promising a better plan in its place. The Democratic attorneys general said they’ve launched their appeal of a recent ruling by a conservative federal judge in Texas who declared the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. In Washington, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced a vote next week on a resolution that would authorize lawyers for the House to join the appeal.

House to vote next week on intervening to defend ObamaCare in court

January 2, 2019, The Hill, Peter Sullivan- The House will hold a vote next week on intervening to defend ObamaCare in court against a GOP-led lawsuit, which Democrats hope will be a tough vote for many Republicans. A spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the vote on having the House formally intervene in court to defend ObamaCare will come next week, in addition to a vote on Thursday on intervening in the lawsuit as part of the larger package of rules for the new session of Congress. Holding the separate additional vote next week will put Republican lawmakers on record, highlighting the political pressure that Democrats hope to put on vulnerable GOP lawmakers who campaigned last year pledging to support protections for people with pre-existing conditions.