Trending News Today: Smaller Enrollment Window May Help Stabilize Insurance Market

Top news of the day from across the health care landscape.

Changes to the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) insurance exchanges by the Trump administration could impact coverage for next year, according to The New York Times. The series of changes are aimed at reducing the number of insurance company defections, and the pursuit of a broader remake of the federal law. Starting November 1, 2017, and ending December 15, 2017, customers will have 45 days to pick a 2018 health plan. The administration hopes the smaller enrollment window will help prevent individuals from taking advantage of the system by waiting until they are sick before signing up for coverage. However, the tighter window could be a challenge to shoppers who search for insurance plans that include their physician, as to avoid large medical bills. Additionally, lawmakers also seek to curb special enrollment periods that allow consumers to sign up or change coverage outside the normal enrollment period if they undergo big life changes. Insurers say that the loose enrollment periods are an expensive issue because it allows consumers to game the system, the NY Times reported. Now, customers will have to first verify that they qualify for special enrollment before they enroll, which could create coverage delays. Insurers will also have increased flexibility to design lower cost coverage to help attract younger customers; however, this would come with a higher deductible, reported the NY Times.

A new House Republican bill would make it harder for low-income patients and older Americans to win lawsuits for insurers caused by medical malpractice, defective drugs, or medical devices, according to the NY Times. The bill would place new limits on lawsuits regarding care covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or private health insurance subsidized by the ACA. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the bill would help limit “frivolous lawsuits that unnecessarily drive up health care costs.” But Democrats and lawyers argue the bill would only strip rights away from patients. The bill is part of a plan by House Republicans to replace the ACA, which the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates would reduce federal budget deficits by nearly $50 billion over 10 years.

New data suggest that stroke rates are rising among younger adults, according to a study published in JAMA Neurology. The investigators used the International Classification of Diseases codes on hospitalization data from the National Inpatient Sample to examine stroke rates and the prevalence of risk factors among individuals aged 18 to 64 years from 1995 to 2012. The results of the study showed that acute ischemic stroke hospitalization rates increased significantly among men and women aged 18 to 54 years, with nearly 30,000 more stroke hospitalizations in 2012 than in 2003. Furthermore, the rates nearly doubled for men aged 18 to 44 years. “We found that the prevalence of hypertension among men aged 18 to 34 admitted with an acute ischemic stroke increased from 1 in 3 to 40%, and increased from 1 in 4 to 1 in 3 among females,” lead investigator Mary G George, MD, told Medscape Medical News. “Also, two-thirds of males and 57% of females aged 35 to 44 had hypertension, while about 3 out of every 4 aged 45 to 54 had hypertension. This is important, as we know that the prevalence of hypertension in the whole adult population is 29%.”