Our final healthcare news roundup of 2016 looks at the current state of Republican plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), potential challenges to implementing the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA), a new initiative aimed at integrating behavioral health services with primary care, and an increase in healthcare spending on children.
GOP ready to repeal ACA, but not replace: While Republicans in Congress are eager to repeal the ACA with President-elect Donald Trump taking office in January, they haven’t yet reached a consensus on replacing it. That could mean certain parts of the law, such as Medicaid expansion and insurance subsidies, would remain in effect for a few years, perhaps even beyond the 2020 election. Replacement ideas floated by the GOP so far include expanding Health Savings Accounts, allowing the sale of insurance across state lines, and turning Medicaid into a block grant program that would give control to the states. According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), 6.4 million people signed up for health insurance coverage on the exchanges by mid-December this year, an increase of 400,000 over 2015. Read more here.
Challenges could hurt MACRA implementation: The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) within HHS has released a study making recommendations to avoid roadblocks in implementing MACRA. In particular, OIG is concerned about solo providers, small practices, and rural hospitals, and whether they are “technically and logistically ready” to take part in MACRA’s Quality Payment Program (QPP). The watchdog is urging the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to expand engagement and outreach, as well as develop IT systems that support data submission and validation for QPP. Read more here.
HHS initiative targets mental health care improvements: Eight states have been chosen to participate in a new HHS initiative that will bring behavior health services to a primary care setting. The goal is increasing access to care for patients suffering from mental illness and substance abuse disorders, focusing on Medicaid beneficiaries. Participating clinics will then be evaluated on 21 quality measures that evaluate how well they coordinate care with primary care providers and other factors. Read more here.
Large increase in pediatric healthcare spending: Healthcare spending on children has jumped more than 50 percent in the last two decades, according to new data published by the American Medical Association, and currently accounts for 8.4 percent of total healthcare expenditures. That amounts to an annual growth of 2.5 percent over that time frame. The largest area of spending was inpatient newborn care, followed by ADHD treatment and dental care. Twenty costly conditions accounted for nearly 80 percent of personal healthcare spending on children, according to the report. Read more here.
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