Healthcare Reform News Update for May 17, 2017
Senator John Thune Working to Improve AHCA’s Subsidies
Senate Republicans largely agree that subsidies laid out in the American Health Care Act (AHCA) need to be altered. Tennessee Senator Bob Corker has said, “The way the subsidies were in the House bill, it really wasn’t enough to help people who were on the lower end of the economic spectrum to be able to actually purchase it.”
South Dakota Senator John Thune, who said, “We clearly want to drive more of the benefit of the tax credit to people on the lower-income part of the scale and the elderly,” is crafting a proposal with others that would:
- Tie subsidies to income
- Lower the income-based eligibility limit currently listed in the AHCA
- Increase tax credits for those still eligible
- Provide more support for older Americans
Healthcare Reform News Update for May 16, 2017
Bipartisan Group of Senators Meets for Healthcare Reform Talk
Monday night, a group of Democratic and Republican Senators met to “discuss whether there is a bipartisan way forward on healthcare reform.” The preliminary meeting, organized by Republican Senators Susan Collins and Bill Cassidy, was attended by around 10 Senators.
Bipartisan Lawmakers Re-Introducing Fair Drug Pricing Act
Lawmakers plan to re-introduce a drug-pricing transparency bill Tuesday. The bill requires drug manufacturers to justify price increases and detail their expenses before raising the cost of certain medications. “Under the Fair Drug Pricing Act, companies will have to notify the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and submit a report 30 days before they increase the price of certain drugs that cost at least $100 by more than 10 percent in one year, or 25 percent over three years.”
CMS Plans to Close Online SHOP Enrollment, Offer Small Business Health Care Tax Credits
In a press release published on Monday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a plan to alter the Federally-Facilitated Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP). Currently through SHOP, small businesses could apply for a determination of SHOP eligibility. After receiving the designation, small businesses could purchase health insurance coverage for their employees through the SHOP online marketplace and received a Small Business Health Care Tax Credit.
In CMS’s planned change, SHOP would discontinue online enrollment through HealthCare.gov. Small businesses could still receive a SHOP eligibility determination and receive the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit. However, small businesses would “access coverage through an agent or broker, or an issuer of their choice, for plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2018.”
Healthcare Reform News Update for May 15, 2017
An Update on Senate’s Healthcare Bill Progress
The Senate is currently debating healthcare reform, mostly on a partisan basis. While no proposal has been released (the Senate will wait for a CBO score on the AHCA), here is an update on their progress:
- It has been difficult for conservative and centralist Republicans to come to a consensus. After the 13-member Senate working group negotiated on Medicaid and Obamacare regulations last week, a Republican aid felt “much less optimistic that something will get done.”
- Centralist Senators Bill Cassidy and Susan Collins have been reaching out to Democrats, hoping for bipartisan healthcare reform. Collins said in a recent interview, “I really want us to have a bipartisan bill. I just think [it] will be so much better. And we have better ideas. So that’s my goal. You end up with a better bill, you end up with better acceptance by the public.” The two Senators are also working on their own healthcare bill.
Legislative Conversations on Drug Pricing Continue
A prior proposal to allow drug-importation from Canada was dismissed by the Senate last week. However, legislators are still working to find ways to lower drug prices. All ideologies seem interested in speeding up the generic drug approval process and increasing transparency in drug pricing.
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price is holding listening sessions with patient groups, insurance companies, pharmacy groups, and hospital groups. Proposals from these organizations “include boosting competition through generic drug development, price transparency, and more communication between regulators and government payers.”
Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director, also suggested changing Medicare drug pricing negotiations during a conference at Stanford University. During the conference, Mulvaney drew a direct comparison between drug price negotiations in Medicaid (which includes mandatory rebates) and Medicare (in which drug companies and insurance companies negotiate to win rebates).
Trump Releases Supportive Statement in Celebration of Women’s Health Week
“Ensuring affordable, accessible, and quality health care is critical to improving women’s health and ensuring that it fits their priorities at any stage of life,” Trump said in a statement released on Mother’s Day, during Women’s Health Week.
The statement continues: “The number of women dying from heart disease and cancer—the top two killers of women in America—has been decreasing for decades. Thanks to new breast cancer treatments, our health care professionals have saved lives and improved the quality of life for millions of women. We must continue to foster an environment that rewards these needed advances in research.”
Trump added that “he is committed to working with Congress on behalf of paid family leave for mothers and fathers, and to ‘invest in the comprehensive care that women receive at community health centers.’”
Healthcare Reform News Update for May 12, 2017
Conservative Senators Begin Outlining Healthcare Reform Ideals
Conservative Republicans have several ideals for the healthcare bill they are currently drafting and negotiating with other members of the Senate:
- Change the AHCA’s refundable tax credits to non-refundable tax credits
- Remove Medicaid expansion eligibility for “able-bodied” adults
- Repeal insurance regulations put in place by the ACA — “such as the requirement that plans don’t charge higher premiums to people with pre-existing conditions — or make states opt in.”
Senate Assures Women’s Involvement in Healthcare Reform
The Republican Senate has recently faced criticism pointing at the lack of women in the 13-member healthcare reform working group, despite the number of women’s health issues at play. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has assured his colleagues, and the public, that women will not be (and haven’t been) excluded. According to a member of the GOP, “The leader has assured us that at least one of the women will attend all of the meetings going forward.”
McConnell extended invitations to three female colleagues for a Tuesday meeting of the working group, which Senator Shelley Moore Capito attended. A Thursday meeting was attended by Senator Joni Ernst. Additionally, McConnell has reportedly given an open invitation to any Republican Senator interested in attending the working group’s meetings.
Senate May Revert to Income-Based Subsidies in Revised Healthcare Bill
According to Senator John Hoeven, the House bill’s financial assistance “is just not robust enough to make sure that low-income individuals can actually afford a [health] plan.” Because of this, the Senate may consider using income-based health insurance subsidies in their healthcare bill.