In The Trump Era

Grind for March 7th, 2019
“We can destroy what we have written, but we cannot unwrite it.”

Anthony Burgess

A Good Idea

The Headline

Texas lawmakers take aim at surprise medical bills

The Grind

A new proposal introduced by Texas lawmakers aims to take the burden away from patients in situations where medical providers disagree with insurance companies.

The bill is essentially a crackdown on “balance billing” – when a medical provider charges a patient for the difference between the provider’s charge and the allowed amount.

In other words, the patient is forced to make up the difference when the insurer disagrees with the health care provider.

The Details

If passed, the bill would force medical providers and health insurance companies to mediate payment disputes before sending bills to patients.

Mediation would be conducted by the Texas Department of Insurance, a program set up to intervene in cases where patients receive balance bills in excess of $500.

The proposal, introduced by lawmakers Kelly Hancock (R) and Trey Martinez Fischer (D), would beef up the program so that it could handle more complaints from more patients.

“This is designed to apply in situations where patients don’t have any choice which facility they go to or which physician is involved in their care,” says Hancock.

As critics have pointed out, the current system can be difficult to utilize.

“The instructions for how to do it are on your medical bill and your explanation of benefits – the most indecipherable documents you are going to get,” argues policy analyst Stacey Pogue.

Hancock’s proposal would make the mediation program available to Texans with federally regulated, self-funded healthcare plans (a category which makes up about 40% of the state’s insurance market).

“Texas will send a loud and clear signal to DC that similar consumer protections need to be passed at the federal level,” said Hancock last Thursday. “Until then, Texas…[is] committed to doing something about it.”


The Headline

Thanks to Trump, millions of Americans no longer need food stamps

The Grind

As reported this week by the USDA, nearly 4 million Americans have dropped out of the SNAP (food stamp) program since President Trump’s first month in office.

The decline puts SNAP enrollment at its lowest level since November 2009.

The Details

Enrollment peaked in 2013 during the Obama Administration but started to decline following a series of laws requiring SNAP recipients to work, volunteer, take classes, or participate in job training.

Other factors in the decline include further reform efforts by the Trump Administration and economic growth following the GOP’s tax reform package.

“A central theme of the Trump Administration has been to expand prosperity for all Americans, which includes helping people lift themselves out of pervasive poverty,” says Agriculture Sec. Sonny Perdue.

Imposing work requirements in government assistance programs “restores the dignity of work to a sizable segment of our population, while it’s also respectful of the taxpayers who fund the program.”

SNAP enrollment has also declined in response to a proposed policy that would block legal immigrants from gaining permanent residence status if they participate in welfare programs.

Enrollment in SNAP by new immigrants has dropped 10% in the past five years.

Did you know… The Chinese government “encouraged” the country’s tallest female basketball player to marry the country’s tallest man. Their child was Yao Ming.