News Update for March 30, 2017
Ryan Doesn’t Want Bipartisan Healthcare Reform
During an interview on “CBS This Morning,” Ryan voiced his concerns on Trump’s sway toward Democratic healthcare reform. Republicans’ inability to come together on healthcare reform, as well as campaign promises, may be leading the President to consider Democrats’ reform requests. “This is a can-do president, who’s a business guy, who wants to get things done, and I know that he wants to get things done with a Republican Congress, but if this Republican Congress allows the perfect to be the enemy of the good, I worry we’ll push the president into, um, working with the Democrats; he’s suggested as much,” Ryan said during the interview.
Two GOP Senators Introduce Legislation to Help Those With No Marketplace Options
If insurance providers withdraw from already limited markets, many Americans would have no options on the Marketplace and couldn’t utilize subsidies. Republican Tennessee Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker introduced legislation on Wednesday hoping to limit this fallout. Their proposed bill would allow Americans to use their subsidies to purchase coverage off the exchange.
States Take Action to Lower Healthcare Spending
Colorado’s State Senate has approved a $26.8 billion state budget bill. The bill includes controversial funding cuts to state hospitals ($500 million).
Texas’ House submitted a spending proposal that cuts $2.4 billion in funding from Medicaid ($1 billion from Texas state and $1.4 billion from the federal government).
Minnesota’s House and Senate announced they’d made a deal on a bill aimed to control health insurance costs in their state. This deal would support health insurance companies (helping them cover the cost of high medical claims) and cost $542 million dollars in the next two years.
News Update for March 29, 2017
Republican House Members Not Ready to Leave Healthcare Reform Behind
House Speaker Paul Ryan brokered a meeting between the Tuesday Group of moderates and the House Freedom Caucus. During the meeting, the two groups “reopened the conversation on how to repeal and replace Obamacare.” While there hasn’t been a consensus, it was clear to meeting attendees that “everyone in that room is dying to get to yes.”
Despite House Republicans voicing their desire to revive reform efforts, Senate Republicans and White House officials seem ready to move past healthcare.
The American public seems divided on healthcare reform. Review the public’s views on healthcare reform.
Insurance Companies Uncertain About Staying in Marketplaces
Without clarity into the administration’s plans for subsidies and the individual mandate, insurance companies are hesitant to create and adapt their 2018 products. Dr. Mario Molina, CEO of Molina, said, “We need some clarity on what’s going to happen with cost-sharing reductions and understand how they’re going to apply the mandate. [If subsidy payments stopped,] it would certainly play into our decision [to leave Marketplaces]. We’ll look at this on a market-by-market basis. We could leave some. We could leave all.”
States Move Forward With Medicaid Legislation
The Kansas Senate voted to approve Medicaid expansion on Tuesday. Kansas Governor Sam Brownback now has the opportunity to approve or veto the expansion. A veto can be overridden by 84 House and 27 Senate votes.
The Arkansas Senate voted to keep its hybrid Medicaid expansion and budget. Arkansas’ House is now voting on the Medicaid bill.
News Update for March 28, 2017
Is Obamacare Really Exploding, Like Trump Says?
No, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) isn’t about to fail or explode. Health insurance marketplaces—also known as exchanges—are stable, allowing people to shop for the best price possible. The uninsured rate has fallen greatly, and premiums rates are relatively steady.
But the healthcare bill still has room for improvement. Many Americans have few choices in their regions for health insurance providers, some states have seen varying levels of success and failure (like enormous premium rate hikes in Arizona), and the rise in deductibles is making out-of-pocket spending increase. Additionally, the U.S. is still spending more per capita than other industrialized nations on healthcare.
Tom Price to Administer Obamacare, May Be Working to Stabilize Marketplace
Tom Price, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, came into his position with the goal of repealing the ACA. But after the failure of the American Health Care Act, he doesn’t seem to be letting Obamacare (the healthcare reform he fought against) fail. In fact, he may be working to stabilize health insurance markets. Small regulatory changes made in February and a letter from Price to governors support these stabilizing claims.
4 Potential Healthcare Solutions Gaining New Attention
Right now, health insurance companies are developing plans they will file for 2018. So, planned healthcare reform efforts have to happen as soon as possible to keep these companies in the health insurance marketplace. With time ticking on the reform clock, here are 4 potential healthcare reform solutions that are currently gaining traction:
- Gain insight from Seema Verma on potential improvements to the ACA. Verma is “famous for being the woman who figured out how to build health reimbursement arrangements into Medicaid coverage for moderately low income adults.”
- Repeal the ACA completely, rather than through a budget reconciliation process. Two full repeal bills (H.R. 175 and H.R. 370) have already been introduced by members of congress.
- Use a single-payer healthcare system, also called universal healthcare, to cover everyone. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) made headlines and has said a draft of his bill will be ready within weeks.
- Cross party lines by having Republicans and Democrats work together to craft healthcare reform. At the moment, small bursts of bipartisan effort have been made. “Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) are hoping they can convince Democrats to back their health insurance overhaul, which would let states choose whether to keep or replace Obamacare.”
News Update for March 27, 2017
Are Single-Payer Plans the Next Big Talking Point in Healthcare Reform?
On Sunday, Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) told CNN’s “State of the Union” that he is “going to introduce a Medicare-for-all single-payer program.” The plan, which can be called universal healthcare, was also mentioned during a town hall the previous day. According to Vermont Public Radio, Sanders said the plan could be ready within weeks. “It is a commonsense proposal, and I think once the American people understand it, we can go forward with it,” Sanders said after the Saturday town hall. Sanders invited Republicans to negotiate his upcoming plan; he even invited the President to work with him. “President Trump, come on board. Let’s work together. Let’s end the absurdity of Americans paying by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.”
The plan seems to have the support of Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), who said he planned to introduce Sanders’ single-payer plan to the House. Welch commented on the single-payer plan by saying, “We need in this country, like any industrialized country, a healthcare system that’s affordable, accessible and universal.”
Democrats See Opportunity for Universal Healthcare After AHCA Loss
In addition to Bernie Sanders (D-VT), other Democrats are rallying behind the idea of a single-payer program, also known as universal healthcare. Here are what some lawmakers are saying in favor of universal healthcare:
- Jim Langevin (D-RI): “We have to look harder at a single-payer system.”
- Jack Reed (D-RI): “I’m old enough to have voted for a single-payer system in the House.”
- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA): “I supported single payer since before you were born.”
- Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI): “The very best market-based solution is to have a public option. The best way to show that a stick is crooked is to put a straight stick next to it. If you do that, the private sector can’t manipulate the market by withdrawing.”
Trump May Have Lost the AHCA Battle, But He Can Still Undermine Obamacare
Even though the American Health Care Act did not have enough Republican support to hold a vote on the House floor, the White House can still help or hurt the current “law of the land.” Here is what the administration can still do to help or harm Obamacare—with the aid of Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary Tom Price.
- The lawsuit over cost-sharing reduction payments: Although the House of Representatives is currently winning, Trump has the power to stop defending the lawsuit that addresses the legality of these subsidies. If he did stop defending the lawsuit, 7 million people could lose their subsidies.
- The individual mandate: There is already an executive order in place telling government agencies to lessen the individual mandate’s burden on individuals. The IRS has agreed to “use a light touch” when enforcing the law, which “requires people to sign up for health insurance or pay a fine.”
- Advertising the public healthcare Marketplace: Trump’s administration pulled some ads and outreach toward the end of this year’s open enrollment period. “One big question is how much the Trump administration will encourage people to sign up for next year.” Without advertisements and outreach, enrollment could be undermined.
- Market regulations: The HHS has proposed rules in order to make the Marketplace more appealing to insurance companies. Some of the rules “could reduce the number of people taking advantage of loopholes in the [Affordable Care Act], potentially lowering premiums for the rest.”
- Political influence: Obamacare kept insurance companies in the Marketplace with the help of the Obama administration’s persuasion. Without such persuasion, insurance companies could decide to drop out of the Marketplace in greater numbers and leave some people with fewer choices.
News Update for March 24, 2017
News Update as of 4:25 p.m. CST
Obamacare Is Here To Stay
House Speaker Paul Ryan addressed the AHCA’s recent defeat in a press conference held this afternoon. “Obamacare is the law of the land. We’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future.
While Ryan does not believe that Obamacare is viable, he has hopes that Tom Price will find ways to make the healthcare law sustainable. In the meantime, Ryan and the White House will move on to other priority issues.
News Update as of 3:12 p.m. CST
White House Pulls AHCA Ahead of House Vote
Republicans have decided to pull the American Health Care Act from the House floor. Despite last-minute concessions to conservative Republicans, the party still lacked the votes to approve the healthcare reform bill. House Speaker Paul Ryan was seen rushing to the White House during the House’s debate to inform President Trump. In a phone interview with The Washington Post, President Trump said, “We just pulled it.” The President did not cast blame on Ryan, telling The Washington Post, “I don’t blame Paul.”
Trump Demands Friday Vote on AHCA
Mick Mulvaney, Office of Management and Budget Director, issued strong words from Trump to lawmakers Thursday. Trump wants the vote on American Health Care Act to happen today (March 24), and if it fails, he will leave Obamacare in place and move on to other priorities.
The House Is Debating the American Health Care Act
Currently, the U.S. House is debating for and against the AHCA. The scheduled 4-hour debate began at 10:20 a.m. central and can be viewed live here. It still is not clear if the bill has gained enough Republican votes to pass.
Kansas Moves Forward With Medicaid Expansion Amid Federal Medicaid Debate
On Thursday, state lawmakers in Kansas moved a Medicaid expansion proposal forward. It is currently headed to the Senate floor, despite healthcare reform debates over Medicaid funding. Supporters of the expansion don’t want national debate to derail Kansas-state needs, but opponents want Kansas lawmakers to wait until federal debates over Medicaid-expansion funding have settled.
News Update for March 23, 2017
Healthcare Reform Vote Postponed
While the House planned to pass the American Healthcare Act tonight (Thursday, March 23), the vote has been postponed. The White House remains confident in its ability to vote quickly on the bill despite the delay. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House deputy press secretary, said, “Debate will commence tonight as planned and the vote will be in the morning to avoid voting at 3 a.m. We feel this should be done in the light of day, not in the wee hours of the night and we are confident the bill will pass in the morning.”
Last-Minute Changes to AHCA Aim to Appease Conservatives but Irk Moderates
Recent changes to the American health Care Act (AHCA) have been focused on persuading conservative Republicans, particularly the Freedom Caucus. Unfortunately, these changes might be repelling moderate Republicans.
Late Wednesday, conservatives of the Freedom Caucus added the removal of some essential health benefits (like prescription drugs, maternity care, and substance abuse treatment) and protections for people with pre-existing conditions to their list of things the bill must do before they will vote in favor of it. While even these changes may not guarantee all conservative voters, Randy Weber (R-Texas) of the Freedom Caucus told reporters, “Negotiations are taking place. The president’s moving our way.”
Moderate Republicans seem dissuaded by these potential additions to the AHCA. GOP Rep. Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania stated, “The Freedom Caucus has presented what it will take for them to get some yeses, and I think there are now members who will have to now evaluate things a little bit further.” A more strongly worded disapproval was given by Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania. Dent said, “After careful deliberation, I cannot support the bill and will oppose it. I believe this bill, in its current form, will lead to the loss of coverage and make insurance unaffordable for too many Americans, particularly for low-to-moderate income and older individuals.”
According to ABC News, at least 30 Republicans still oppose the AHCA.
Biden Speaks Out Against AHCA Before House Vote
On Wednesday, Former Vice President Joe Biden shared his strong opposition to the AHCA. Joined by fellow Democrats, Biden said, “The costs [of an Affordable Care Act repeal] are enormous” and the proposed healthcare bill uses tax benefits for the “transfer of about a trillion dollars” to wealthy households.
Two Non-ACA Healthcare Bills Have Been Passed by the House
On Wednesday, two healthcare bills were passed by the U.S. House:
- R. 372, the Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act of 2017, means to repeal the McCarran-Ferguson Act. The McCarran-Ferguson Act is an antitrust exemption directed toward health insurance companies.
- R. 1101, the Small Business Health Fairness Act, “would let a multi-state association health plan sell coverage outside its state of domicile, even if the other states objected. The regulators in the state of domicile would regulate the plan.”
Read more about the passing of these bills here.
News Update for March 22, 2017
The Senate Is Just as Divided Over the AHCA
If as few as 3 Republicans vote against the American Health Care Act (AHCA) in the Senate, it will fail. Factions of the Republican Senate want more from the AHCA, and they may be willing to kill the bill if they don’t see even greater changes. And those refining the bill will have a hard time pleasing these differing factions.
- More Affordable Care Act (ACA) Repeal: Conservatives (particularly Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Mike Lee) have stated strong opposition toward the current draft of the AHCA and want stronger repeals of the ACA.
- Planned Parenthood: Those defending Planned Parenthood (particularly Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski) oppose the AHCA’s defunding of the program, but removing the bill’s current provision could upset conservative voters.
- Medicaid: Those protecting Medicaid expansion (particularly Murkowski, Rob Portman, Shelley Moore Capito, Cory Gardner, Dean Heller, and Brian Sandoval) have expressed shared concerns about the bill’s plans to withdraw Medicaid expansion funding from their represented states. Removing this phase-out would upset conservatives, who want it to happen even sooner than planned in the bill.
- Loss of Coverage & House Majority: Those concerned over the loss of coverage for people, as well as the loss of the House majority, make up the last two factions (Bill Cassidy and Tom Cotton). Bill Cassidy has grave concerns about the 24 million who will lose coverage based on the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate. Tom Cotton “thinks the bill could endanger the House majority and won’t pass the Senate.”
Can Mitch McConnell Save the AHCA?
Senior United States Senator and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will be in charge of altering the AHCA before it can be rejected by the Senate. On Tuesday, McConnell said, “We’re not slowing down. We will reach a conclusion on health care next week.”
How Do American Voters Feel About Current Healthcare Reform?
The Morning Consult and Politico recently published a new poll asking nearly 2,000 registered voters how they felt about the AHCA and other healthcare reform. Here are the results:
- 43% think the GOP needs to take more time
- 17% think Republicans are taking the right amount of time
AHCA Effects on Healthcare Costs
- 39% think healthcare costs will increase
- 20% think healthcare costs will decrease
AHCA Effects on Quality of Healthcare
- 32% think quality will decrease
- 28% think quality will increase
AHCA Effects on the Healthcare System
- 36% think the healthcare system will be negatively affected
- 30% think the healthcare system will improve
Around half of the respondents stated that they were more likely to back the bill after the CBO predicted a $337 billion decrease in the federal deficit in 10 years, as well as an eventual 10%decrease in the average premium. However, over half of respondents stated that they were less likely to back the bill after CBO estimates that 24 million people would lose coverage and premiums would increase by 15%-20% for the first two years of the AHCA.
To see if your representative shares your feelings on upcoming healthcare reform, visit this NPR article.