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The new head of the federal agency that oversees health benefits for nearly 150 million Americans and $1 trillion in federal spending said in his first interview that his top priorities would be to broaden insurance coverage and ensure health equity.
“We’ve seen through the pandemic what happens when people don’t have health insurance and how important it is,” said Chiquita Brooks-Lasur, who was voted May 25 by the Senate to lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. was confirmed and sworn in on 27 May. “Our focus is on making sure that the rules and policies are going to be focused on improving coverage.”
that approach There’s an abrupt switch from the Trump administration, which prompted the agency to repeal the Affordable Care Act and roll back the Medicaid program, a federal-state program for low-income people to help them.
Brooks-Lasur, whose agency oversees the ACA marketplace in addition to Medicare, Medicaid and children’s health insurance programs, said he is not surprised by the huge increase in the number of people enrolling in ACA insurance since President Joe Biden. . re-enrollment In January. As of last month, the administration says, over 1 million people had signed up.
“Over the years, I’ve worked with a lot of state-based marketplaces and we could see a difference in enrollment when states were actively pushing coverage,” Brooks-Lasur said. A former congressman and Obama administration health worker, he most recently served as managing director at the consulting firm Manatt Health. “I believe most people who are not enrolled want coverage,” but can’t figure out if it’s available or how to get it, she said. “It’s about knowledge and power.”
Brooks-Lasur also suggested that the Biden administration would support Congressional efforts to ensure coverage for the millions of Americans who falling into what’s called the Medicaid gap. Those are people from dozens of states that haven’t expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, earning too little to qualify for ACA Marketplace coverage. Georgia Democratic Sens. John Osoff and Raphael Warnock, whose GOP-led state has not expanded the program, are calling for a new federal program To cover people who fall in that category.
Brooks-Lasur said she would prefer to use the states additional incentive fund A recent US rescue plan toward expanding their Medicaid programs provided, “because, ideally, states are able to formulate policies in their states; they are closest to the ground.” But if states fail to expand Medicaid (no one so far has proposed in the new provision), “the public option or other coverage would certainly be a strategy to ensure that people in those states have coverage.” ,” He said.
Also on his radar is the need to tackle the imminent bankruptcy of the trust fund that finances a large portion of the Medicare program. Last year’s economic slowdown – and declining tax revenue from employee pay withholdings – is likely to accelerate that date. Medicare’s Hospital Insurance Program Will not be able to cover all your bills.
Brooks-Lasur said he is sure he and Congress will spend time on the issue in the coming year, but those discussions could give officials an opportunity to re-imagine the Medicare program and consider expanding benefits. Democrats in Congress are considering lowering the Medicare eligibility age and adding now-defunct benefits to the program, which include dental, hearing, and vision coverage.
“I hope that when we look at solvency, we really focus on making sure that we keep the Medicare program going strong,” Brooks-Lasur said. “And that could mean some changes that strengthen the program,” she said.
Kaiser Health News Kaiser Family is a national, editorially independent newsroom and program of the Foundation, and is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.
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