Key takeaways from “America’s Health Future” live news event

The Washington Post held a live news event yesterday exploring how challenges posed by chronic disease, access to health insurance and the future of Medicaid will affect the health of all Americans in the years to come. Speakers included the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma, former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy and Highmark Health CEO David Holmbert.

The full transcript from the event can be read here. Some key points made by Verma regarding Medicaid included:

  • Verma sees Medicaid serving two different populations: 1) Those with disabilities or chronic medical conditions who aren’t able to work, and 2) Healthy adults who are able to work. The two populations need to be addressed differently.
  • Work requirements – community engagement or work requirements for able-bodied individuals includes job training, volunteerism and helping people become independent.
  • Lifetime benefit caps – a waiver submitted by Kansas requesting a 3-year benefit cap was recently denied. Verma indicated it is unlikely that lifetime benefit caps will be approved because people need a safety net and pathway back into the program if needed.
  • Drug testing – when Verma was asked about approving drug testing for Medicaid enrollees if drug abuse was suspected, she suggested it could be one way to address the opioid epidemic. She said approval of drug testing would depend on what the state requesting the waiver wants to achieve.
  • Drug pricing – patients need to be empowered with the information they need, including cost. Verma announced that CMS now has a drug pricing dashboard available online to show what CMS is spending overall and the prices for every drug.

The news event ended with Verma touching on the Affordable Care Act’s impact on insurance price (higher) and the availability of plan options (fewer). She said insurance plans have increased so much that people can’t afford insurance and states need more flexibility so they can regulate their markets.