Worth Another Look: The Future of Healthcare Reform

In January of 2017, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) published a list of the top 10 issues that will be before state legislatures across the nation this year. While we’re just over a quarter of the way through the two-year 2017-2018 legislative session, it’s worth a look to see what our own elected officials are doing to address each of the issues. The next topic up for consideration: the future of healthcare reform.

In 2010, the United States passed the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a comprehensive overhaul and expansion of its healthcare system. The law has three primary goals: (1) make affordable health insurance available to more people; (2) expand the Medicaid program to cover all adults with income below 138% of the federal poverty level; and (3) support innovative medical care delivery methods designed to lower the costs of healthcare generally.

The fate of the ACA has been uncertain since the November election. During the campaign, President Trump promised to repeal and replace the law. Facets of Medicaid may also be on the chopping block. Under the ACA, 31 states, including Pennsylvania, have expanded Medicaid. The President has discussed turning Medicaid into a block grant program, which could lead to a decrease in federal funding and less discretion by the states when it comes to spending the money.

Just this week, former Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner and current Acting Secretary of Human Services Teresa Miller testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on bipartisan fixes to strengthen the ACA. Acting Secretary Miller outlined opportunities for improvement, including reversing cuts made by the Trump Administration, allocating funds to ensure that payments for cost-sharing reductions continue for at least one more year and preserving the individual mandate.

The week prior, Governor Tom Wolf and seven other Governors, from both parties, laid out recommendations to improve the health insurance market. The recommendations included “immediate federal action to stabilize the markets, responsible reforms that preserve recent coverage gains and control costs, and an active federal/state partnership based on innovation and a shared commitment to improve overall health system performance.”

Whether it’s “repeal and replace” or just a modification, most of the parties involved believe something needs to be done. In Pennsylvania, the five insurers that sell on the state’s individual market announced that they will increase individual plans by 8.8 percent and small group plans by 6.6 percent. Acting Secretary Miller believes, “these low percentages show that Pennsylvania’s market is stabilizing and insurers are better understanding the markets and the population they serve.” However, if “repeal and replace” proponents have their way, insurers estimate there would be at least a 20 percent increase statewide.

Over the summer, Congress failed to pass legislation to repeal and replace the ACA. As members return to Washington from their break, it looks like, for the time being, the healthcare debate will take a back seat to the budget and tax reform. Still, a bipartisan solution now seems like the ultimate end goal for everyone involved. Stay tuned to this blog or follow us @BuchananLobbyists  for updates.

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