Wednesday, August 9, 2017

New health care plan would make smaller, bipartisan reforms

By Cole Lauterbach - August 09, 2017 at 07:19AM

A number of Congressional members have begun working on a new alternative health-care plan after the last effort to replace Obamacare stalled. But a healthcare expert says it’s likely too late.

The Problem Solvers’ Caucus, consisting of a bipartisan group of 43 House members, introduced a plan to try and combat the coming spike in health-care costs. Companies have until Aug. 16 to lock in their rates and decide whether they’ll participate in a county’s marketplace.

Reps. Dan Lipinski, a Democrat, and Adam Kinzinger, a Republican, both from Illinois, are members of the 43-member Problem Solvers Caucus. The caucus unveiled a health-care plan last week that wouldn’t be as far-reaching as Obamacare or the American Healthcare Act, which stalled last month in the Senate.

The new plan would make small reforms that have been largely agreed to by both parties. Republicans persuaded Democrats to go along with raising the small business exemption from 50 employees to 500. Democrats pushed to maintain levels of Medicaid expansion.

The centerpiece is funding for the cost-sharing reduction program designed to keep premiums low. Without that, insurance companies have indicated that rates would skyrocket for high-risk or low income patients. President Donald Trump has hinted that he may pull that funding, but the bipartisan plan would appropriate it.

The plan also includes coverage for chronic and pre-existing conditions, repealing the medical device tax, and giving states the ability to do business with companies across state lines.

Kinzinger said there are still ways to improve health care for people over what’s out there now.

“Unless the Senate can somehow pull a rabbit out of a hat this month, there is going to be a failing of the health-care system,” he said. “Let’s explore areas of common ground between Republicans and Democrats to try to help give people a better health-care system.”

In a release, Lipinski said their plan will likely see detractors looking to blame the other side of the aisle for a collapse of the health-care industry.

“Some partisans in both parties may even believe that if the ACA fails, the other side will get blamed in the next election,” Lipinski said. “Others will oppose it because they want the ACA to collapse.”

Naomi Lopez Bauman, director of Healthcare Policy for the Goldwater Institute, thinks the failure to repeal Obamacare has killed momentum on more health-care votes in D.C. She thinks that any more action this year will be to simply subsidize providers to keep them offering plans.

“Anything that they’re going to do this late in the game is going to basically involve throwing money at the exchanges,” she said. “After the debacle that was repeal and replace, there’s just not much appetite for the heavy lifting on major health-care reform this year.”

She says that Trump could force the issue of reform by making lawmakers subject to the Obamacare exchanges.

Insurance companies must submit whether they will participate in a county’s exchange by Aug. 16.