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What We're Reading: Consumers in ACA Exchanges Healthier, Administration Says

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What we're reading, August 12, 2016: CMS announces Obamacare plans saw a healthier mix of consumers last year; the number of babies born addicted to opioids tripled in 15 years; and the Obama administration will shift funding from HHS to fight Zika.

Looking to counter views from health insurers that sicker patients in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) plans led to substantial losses in the first few years, the Obama administration issued new data that there is now a healthier mix of customers on the ACA exchanges, reported The Wall Street Journal. Insurers are seeking hefty premium increases, but CMS reported that insurers’ costs for enrollees in the exchanges in 2015 were unchanged from 2014. However, insurers are arguing that the challenges from the first few years give them no choice but to raise premiums in order to cover medical claims.

In the last 15 years, the number of babies born addicted to opioids has tripled in the United States. According to STAT, the report from the CDC showed hug jumps in nearly every state with Maine, Vermont, and West Virginia being the hardest hit. Despite those harrowing numbers, the CDC said that the findings are likely underestimates. Opioid exposure in the womb is the most common cause of neonatal abstinence syndrome, although it can sometimes be caused by other substances, including methadone, which is used to wean people off opioid dependency.

With no decision from Congress yet regarding the president’s request for funding to combat the Zika virus, the administration is going to shift money yet again. To make up for the failure to pass a Zika emergency supplemental fund, $81 million will be reallocated from HHS, reported The Washington Post. HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell will transfer $34 million away from other programs at the National Institutes of Health and $47 million from within the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority budget.

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