What Happened, What You Missed: January 9-13


Number of ACA Marketplace Enrollees Reaches Record High

A record-breaking 15.9 million people have enrolled for insurance coverage on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace through January 7, according to an announcement from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).  The new enrollment totals represent a 13% increase from the previous year.  In a press release, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra credited incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) that expanded access to health care by lowering plan costs and offering more plan options for the enrollment boost.  The deadline to enroll in a plan on is January 15, although the deadline goes beyond Sunday in some states.

Rep. Jason Smith Tapped to Chair Ways and Means

Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO) prevailed over Reps. Adrian Smith (R-NE) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL) in his bid to chair the House Ways and Means Committee.  The committee’s jurisdiction over Medicaid and Medicare will give the Missouri congressman greater potential to affect health care policy.  Several factors helped Smith edge out his competitors, including his fundraising prowess and close relationship with Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). Known for his populist image, Smith has vowed to focus on rural health, telehealth, innovation, and price transparency.  He has also stated an interest in holding hearings to examine high health care costs.

Medicaid Expansion Cause Post-Birth Hospitalizations to Decrease

Medicaid expansion resulted in a 17% decline in postpartum hospitalizations in states that opted to expand the program, according to a new study from Health Affairs.  According to the data, the largest decrease in hospitalizations occurred during the first 60 days postpartum and a smaller decline in hospitalizations were observed for the period between 61 day and six months postpartum. Under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023, the 12-month extended Medicaid postpartum coverage option has been made permanent. This has enabled 26 states and territories to expand Medicaid coverage for beneficiaries for up to one year postpartum. The results of the study are good news for the Biden administration, which is actively trying to improve maternal health.

AHCA: 85% of Nursing Homes Face Staff Shortages

Over eight in 10 nursing homes in the US are experiencing moderate to severe staffing shortages, according to a survey from the American Health Care Association (AHCA).  The survey also found that 96% of nursing homes are struggling to bring on additional staff.  Additionally, more than 60% of nursing homes said they’re worried about having to shut down due to the shortages.  To draw attention to the crisis, the ACHA launched a nationwide campaign to address staffing shortages that will help educate job seekers about opportunities in long-term care and help nursing homes recruit new employees.

Porter, Lee Announce Bids for Senate

Earlier this week, Reps. Katie Porter (D-CA) and Barbara Lee (D-CA) launched their campaigns for a Senate seat currently held by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).  While the 89-year-old Feinstein filed paperwork in 2021 to run for re-election in 2024, the California senator has yet to publicly announce her bid for reelection.  Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) has also expressed an interest in running, although he has yet to make a formal announcement on his decision.  The likelihood of at least three House members seeking to represent California in the Senate will likely mean three competitive House races in the heavily Democratic San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles metropolitan area.

ICYMI: Smoking Once Again Allowed in House Office Buildings

House members are now allowed to use combustible tobacco products in their offices, according to new rules posted by the Speaker Pro Tempore on Tuesday.  While smoking is prohibited in nearly all office buildings in Washington, DC, the Capitol Complex is exempt from local rules.  However, smoking still remains off-limits on the House floor.  Since the rules were published earlier this week, noted cigar aficionado and new House Rules Committee Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK) has already been spotted smoking a cigar.

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