September 19, 2017
Making sense of health care legislation
The Cassidy-Graham bill, which would convert ACA funding to block grants that could be used for state-run systems, has gained steam in the past 48 hours. It remains unclear whether Senate Republicans have enough votes to pass the bill. Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Rand Paul (R-KY) seem opposed to the bill, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who was a deciding vote against previous repeal efforts, has said she needs more details on the bill’s impact. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who also voted against previous repeal efforts over process concerns, has expressed reservations about the effort.
Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has announced hearings on the bill early next week. The Senate has until September 30 to pass the bill with 51 votes; after that, 60 votes will be needed for passage. The nonpartisan CBO predicts it will not have a full analysis from before the deadline and says it can only provide an estimate of the budgetary impact of the law, but will not be able to outline how the bill will affect premium prices or coverage. Federal law requires the CBO to provide an analysis of the budgetary impact of a bill before it can be passed.
Even if the Senate gains enough votes for passage, it’s unclear if the bill would be able to gain enough support to pass in the House; moderate lawmakers have concerns about the effects of the bill, but conservative lawmakers warn if the bill is altered too much to gain moderate support they will not support it. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) is pushing the deal, arguing it is Republicans last real chance to fulfill their promise to repeal the ACA. President Trump also supports the repeal effort.
Congress faces tight deadline to pass funding for community health clinics
Federal funding for community health centers expires September 30, and it appears increasingly unlikely Congress will be able to renew the funding before the deadline. Lawmakers have not reached a consensus on the funding, and competing efforts to repeal the ACA or stabilize the individual market are already dominating a tight legislative calendar. Failure to fund the clinics could imperil healthcare for 26 million Americans and 51,000 jobs tied to the clinics.
Costs rise for employer coverage
Employers expect healthcare benefit costs to rise by 4.3 percent in 2018, according to early data from Mercer’s National Survey of employer Sponsored Health Plans. The report’s analysis accounts for adjustments employers will likely make to control costs, including higher deductibles and switching carriers. A 4.3 percent cost increase would represent the highest cost jump for employer-provided coverage since 2011; nearly 50 percent of the country receives insurance through their employer.
A private insurer is trying to pick up the slack on enrollment advertising
In response to the Trump Administration’s decision to slash 90 percent of the advertising budget for open enrollment, Oscar Health is launching an ad campaign to get young people to enroll in ACA coverage. The company’s multimillion dollar campaign will run on TV, radio, and on subways and buses in the six states where it offers coverage: New York, New Jersey, Ohio, California, Florida and Tennessee.
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