It’s sort of poetic, in a sad way, that the resignation of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price on September 29 coincided so closely with the expiration of the 2017 budget resolution on September 30. Those two events signaled the end, at least for now, of Congressional Republicans’ efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare through reconciliation–that being the arcane process by which the GOP could have avoided a crippling Democratic filibuster in the Senate.
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Seeing, hearing, reading, and feeling the new grassroots ferment among progressive Americans for a single-payer health care system, my gut reaction is: I get it. As newly documented in Elizabeth Rosenthal’s book, An American Sickness,1 and the Commonwealth Fund’s report, Mirror, Mirror 2017,2 our health care system provides shockingly poor value and outcomes, and rests on a foundation of greed. It deserves fundamental change.
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Republicans have now failed twice to repeal and replace ObamaCare. But their whole focus has been wrong. The debate centered, like ObamaCare, on the number of people with health insurance. A more direct path to broadening access would be to reduce the cost of care. This means creating market conditions long proven to bring down prices while improving quality—empowering consumers to seek value, increasing the supply of care, and stimulating competition.
People will be able to enroll in Obamacare plans directly through web brokers and health insurers for 2018, which will reduce the need for federal outreach funds.
That feature will likely be included in an upcoming Department of Health and Human Services proposed rule under review at the Office of Management and Budget, Joel White, president of the Council for Affordable Health Coverage (CAHC), told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 22. Congress isn’t likely to provide more funding for Affordable Care Act outreach activities, so “HHS is going to have to figure out ways to expand options for consumers to get enrolled,” White said HHS officials have told his group. The CAHC is a broad-based group of health-care industries.
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The actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus announced on Twitter that she has been diagnosed with breast cancer. We all wish her a speedy and complete recovery. Still, this would not normally be a topic for The Apothecary, except that in making her announcement, she used her diagnosis as a plug for “universal health care,” with the implication that universal health care would improve survival rates. Actual data from countries around the world, with and without so-called universal health care, do not support that contention.
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Republicans are willing to provide insurers with two years of ObamaCare subsidies under a bipartisan market stabilization bill, according to the Senate Health Committee chairman.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said continuing cost-sharing reduction subsidies for two years is a key part of the stabilization package he is trying to negotiate with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.).
Alexander and Murray are continuing to try to rally Republicans and Democrats around a short-term plan to lower ObamaCare premiums in 2018 and 2019.
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