Date: July 9, 2018
Around the Nation
Trump administration takes another swipe at 'Obamacare'
ABC News | AP, 7/8/18
The Trump administration said Saturday it's freezing payments under an "Obamacare" program that protects insurers with sicker patients from financial losses, a move expected to add to premium increases next year. At stake are billions in payments to insurers with sicker customers. In a weekend announcement, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said the administration is acting because of conflicting court ruling in lawsuits filed by some smaller insurers who question whether they are being fairly treated under the program. The so-called "risk adjustment" program takes payments from insurers with healthier customers and redistributes that money to companies with sicker enrollees. Payments for 2017 are $10.4 billion. No taxpayer subsidies are involved.
Insurers warn of rising premiums after Trump axes Obamacare payments again
Reuters, 7/8/18
Health insurers warned that a move by the Trump administration on Saturday to temporarily suspend a program that was set to pay out $10.4 billion to insurers for covering high-risk individuals last year could drive up premium costs and create marketplace uncertainty. The Affordable Care Act's (ACA) "risk adjustment" program is intended to incentivize health insurers to cover individuals with pre-existing and chronic conditions by collecting money from insurers with relatively healthy enrollees to offset the costs of other insurers with sicker ones.
Nebraska May Join Utah, Idaho in Putting Medicaid Expansion Before Voters
NPR | NET, 7/6/18
Voters in Nebraska may get to decide whether their state expands Medicaid this November. Supporters of Nebraska's Medicaid expansion campaign, Insure the Good Life, turned in petitions bearing more than 133,000 signatures to the secretary of state Thursday. If 85,000 are validated, the issue will appear on ballots this fall. If it places the issue before voters, Nebraska will join Utah, where a ballot measure has been certified, and likely Idaho, where signatures are expected to be submitted for certification Friday. Montana's voters may also vote on a measure to extend their existing expansion, which is set to expire in 2019. So far, 34 states have approved expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The expansion grants eligibility to many low-income adults who were previously excluded from the government-funded health care program. Last year, Maine residents bypassed the Legislature and voted to expand Medicaid, although that expansion has been held up by a funding dispute with Gov. Paul LePage.
Patients With Chronic Pain Feel Caught In An Opioid Prescribing Debate
NPR | KJZZ, 7/8/18
More than two dozen states have implemented laws or policies limiting opioid prescriptions in some way. The most common is to restrict a patient's first prescription to a number of pills that should last a week or less. But some states like Arizona have gone further by placing a ceiling on the maximum dose for most patients. Since the passage of the law, some doctors in Arizona report feeling pressure to lower patient doses, even for patients who have been on stable regimens of opioids for years without trouble. Dr. Julian Grove knows the nuances of Arizona's new law better than most physicians. A pain doctor, Grove worked with the state on the prescribing rules in the new law. "We moved the needle to a degree so that many patients wouldn't be as severely affected," says Grove who's also president of the Arizona Pain Society. "But I'll be the first to say this has certainly caused a lot of patients problems, anxiety," he says. "Many people who are prescribing medications have moved to a much more conservative stance and unfortunately pain patients are being negatively affected."
Around Illinois
Illinois seeks to expand Obamacare coverage of opioid addiction treatment, prevention, 7/8/18
Illinois consumers who buy health insurance through the Obamacare exchange might get more coverage aimed at treating and preventing opioid addiction, starting in 2020, if the state has its way. The Illinois Department of Insurance has applied to the federal government to add a handful of requirements, mostly dealing with opioid addiction treatment and prevention, to the list of what insurers on Illinois' exchange must cover.
Fatal opioid overdoses in the metro-east may hit a record high this year. Here's why.
Belleville News-Democrat, 7/9/18
The number of fatal overdoses in the metro-east is on track to reach the highest number since the opioid crisis began in 2009. Madison County is on track to have 96 deaths, topping the previous 2014 record when 92 people died, according to Madison County coroner Steve Nonn. In Madison County, 48 people have died in 2018 from drug overdoses, Nonn said. At this time in 2017, 32 people had fatally overdosed in the county. "That will be the most total deaths since this became an epidemic in 2009," Nonn said. "We're on a pace to break our 92 total overdose deaths. It may hit 100. Who knows?" The problem, he said, is not heroin or meth or prescription pills. The problem is fentanyl. Fentanyl is the latest drug coming into the U.S. that has made the opioid crisis deadlier, more addictive and stealthier than ever. In St. Clair County, 25 people have died from drug overdoses so far in 2018. If the rate continues, total deaths will exceed the 46 deaths in 2017 and 39 in 2016, according to data from the St. Clair County coroner's office.
SIU Adding Doctors to Treat Opioid Dependency
U.S. News & World Report | AP, 7/8/18
When Dr. Michael Connolly moved from Wisconsin to Quincy in January 2017 to teach at Southern Illinois University's Center for Family Medicine, he was shocked at the number of opioid prescriptions and substance use disorders. "It was mind-boggling to me," Connolly said. SIU recently had received a federal grant to certify physicians like Connolly in administering Suboxone, a brand name partial narcotic to treat opioid dependence, and Connolly sought certification in administering it. He applied to do so and completed the certification in April 2017. He began seeing patients the next month. At the time, Connolly was the only doctor in the Quincy area to treat opioid use disorders with medications. Fortunately, Connolly said there is another physician at SIU who is undergoing certification to treat patients with Suboxone.
Research, Reports, and Studies
With More Opioid Use, People Are More Likely To Get Caught Up In The Justice System
NPR, 7/6/18
People addicted to prescription opioids or heroin are far more likely to have run-ins with the law than those who don't use opioids, according to a study published Friday in JAMA Network Open. The study provides the first nationwide estimate for the number of people using opioids who end up in the American criminal justice system. The results suggest a need to engage law enforcement officials and corrections systems to tackle the opioid epidemic.
Opioid epidemic responses overlook gender
ScienceDaily, 7/5/18
Yale health experts warn that current efforts to confront the growth of opioid addiction and overdose deaths must better incorporate an understanding of how women fit into this epidemic. In a commentary published in The Lancet, Women's Health Research at Yale Director Carolyn M. Mazure, and Yale Program in Addiction Medicine Director David A. Fiellin, M.D., called for researchers, clinicians, and policymakers to account for the different ways in which women encounter opioid addiction and treatment.
Lifetime sentence: Incarcerated parents impact youth behavior
ScienceDaily, 7/9/18
A new study published in Pediatrics found that young adults who had a parent incarcerated during their childhood are more likely to skip needed healthcare, smoke cigarettes, engage in risky sexual behaviors, and misuse alcohol, prescription and illicit drugs. These findings have potentially broad impact, as over five million U.S. children have had a parent in jail or prison. Strikingly, incarceration of a mother during childhood, as opposed to a father, doubled the likelihood of young adults using the emergency department instead of a primary care setting for medical care. Young adults whose mothers had been incarcerated also were twice as likely to have sex in exchange for money, while those with histories of father incarceration were 2.5 times more likely to use intravenous drugs.
Health & Justice in the News is a summary of recent news stories relating to criminal justice, mental health, addiction, recovery, and related issues. It is compiled and published by TASC each Monday and Thursday.
Some headlines and text have been altered by TASC for clarity or emphasis, or to minimize discriminatory or stigmatizing language. Opinions in the articles and op-eds do not necessarily express the views of TASC or our staff or partners.

See what's happening on our social sites