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Delay, governor opposition add uncertainty to future of Senate health bill
GOP leaders have indefinitely postponed a vote opening deliberation on the Senate health care bill after Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) announced he would be recuperating from unexpected surgery. Republicans do not have enough votes to advance the bill without McCain. Republicans hold 52 seats and need only 50 votes to advance the bill, but Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Rand Paul (R-KY) had already announced that they plan to vote against the measure. It is unclear if Republicans had enough votes to move forward even with McCain, as a handful of Senators have expressed concerns about the bill.
Opponents of the bill believe the delay will ultimately help sink the legislation. Sen. Rand Paul expects mounting conservative opposition to the bill the longer it is delayed, as right-wing groups and lawmakers better grasp the minutiae of the plan.
Governors have also expressed concerns about the bill and voiced even louder skepticism following a special briefing at a National Governors Association meeting. The Association demurred from issuing a joint statement condemning the bill, but a small, bipartisan group of governors is discussing issuing its own statement. Such a move would apply additional pressure on Senators from states with Republican governors and further imperil the health bill’s chances.
GOP health bill would raise costs for sicker Americans
The revised Senate health care bill would loosen insurance requirements and provide less financial help for consumers, a combination that will put health coverage out of reach for millions of Americans who need it. The bill would allow the sale of health plans that do not meet ACA mandates as long as the insurer sells at least one plan that does. Patient advocates say the bill will undermine protections for those with pre-existing conditions, and older and sicker individuals would face higher premiums. The rise in costs for sicker patients would stem from healthy and sick individuals sorting themselves into separate pools, with the healthy individuals choosing the cheaper plans with fewer benefits.
Health systems see returns on value-based payment
Health systems that invest in risk-based reimbursement are starting to see it pay off, though the industry is slow to move away from fee-for-service payments. Large-scale systems with their own health plans are generally more capable of taking on risk than smaller systems, but partnerships with community organizations can also help reduce expenses. Last year, just nine out of 60 hospital systems derived 10 percent or more of net patient revenue from risk-based contracts.
Rural America experiences physician shortages
The doctor shortage in rural America has grown worse in recent years, and trade groups predict these areas could face a shortfall of 45,000 doctors by 2020. Doctors face mounting student loan debt and can make more money in metropolitan areas, making it hard to recruit new physicians to rural areas. The shortage is affecting about 90 million people, many of whom are forced to seek primary care in emergency rooms.
Pastors file suit alleging misleading advertising
Two pastors are suing Coca-Cola and the American Beverage Association. The pastors claim Coke and the ABA ran a campaign that misled consumers about the health risks associated with sugar-sweetened beverages and say the marketing efforts make it difficult to keep their communities healthy. Coca-Cola denied the allegations in a statement, saying it acknowledges its role in helping to limit sugar consumption.