Payer Roundup—Harris to co-sponsor single-payer bill; Maine gov. wants Medicaid expansion called 'welfare'

Freshman senator to co-sponsor single-payer bill

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., announced Wednesday during a town hall event that she will co-sponsor a “Medicare for all” bill championed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. The idea has grown in popularity following Republicans’ failed attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, but it stands little chance of passing while the GOP maintains control of the White House and Congress.

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Harris said she supports the measure because it’s the “right thing to do”—but her position is at odds with her state’s senior senator, Dianne Feinstein. (Politico)

Maine governor takes aim at Medicaid expansion measure

Conservative groups and Maine Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, want very specific wording on a ballot initiative that will decide whether the state opts in to Medicaid expansion. They want it to be called “welfare,” LePage said recently, reasoning that it is free healthcare paid for by taxpayers. He added that he would sue the secretary of state if the ballot language refers to Medicaid expansion as “insurance.” Five times since the ACA was enacted, LePage has vetoed measures to expand Medicaid passed by Maine’s legislature. (Talking Points Memo)

BCBS of Michigan faces spate of lawsuits from employers

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan has been hit with more than 30 lawsuits this month, as employers from a variety of industries are accusing the payer of skimming unauthorized payments from their health plans. The suits—all filed between Aug. 9 and Aug. 11—include those filed by a car dealer, a plastics manufacturing company, an auto parts manufacturer and a regional college. The suits build on a $6 million judgment against BCBSM in 2014, in which an appeals court ruled it was liable under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act for charging hidden and unauthorized fees to employers’ health plan assets. (Bloomberg)

Tennessee insurance commissioner outlines market stabilization steps

Julie McPeak, Tennessee’s top insurance official, is set to testify in an upcoming Senate committee hearing on Affordable Care Act stabilization. Asked what she thinks Congress should do to shore up the ACA exchanges, McPeak said she wants cost-sharing reduction payments to be funded for another year and supports a reinsurance program or high-risk pool. But McPeak said a common GOP proposal—expanding flexibility for section 1332 waivers—might not be the best choice, since they have to be approved by state legislatures, which aren’t always in session. Instead, she suggested creating a different kind of state waiver. (Axios)