On March 5, the Trump administration’s top health official told a conference of hospital executives to hurry up. Washington has spent more than a decade slowly nudging the medical industry away from treating health care as a volume commodity business, where more care is better, and toward incentives that reward improving patients’ health. In all that time, almost nothing has changed. “That transition needs to accelerate dramatically,” said Alex Azar, a former Eli Lilly and Co. executive who was confirmed as secretary of Health and Human Services in January.
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Democrats revolted against this week’s spending package because the deal includes the 1970s Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funds from subsidizing abortion. The left claims this is some new GOP initiative. But Hyde protections have long applied to: Medicaid, Medicare, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Indian Health Service, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, the military health-care program Tricare, among others, as Republicans have pointed out. Such guarantees are standard for appropriations bills.
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When Republicans failed to repeal ObamaCare last year, it recalled the old line about snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. That loss, however, should not be allowed to overshadow an important Republican success on health care. Millions of Medicare beneficiaries now get their coverage through private plans under Medicare Advantage—a quiet step forward that brings real benefits. To ensure continued progress, Republicans must resist the temptation to choose short-term savings over long-term reform.
Of the $88 billion HHS appropriation announced Wednesday night, not a penny is going toward Obamacare. Congress is however extending oversight requirements on HHS regarding its administration of the health exchanges.
Congressional leaders released the long-awaited $1.3 trillion, two-year spending omnibus after days of wrangling behind closed doors over contentious policies that included an embattled stabilization package for the individual market that would fund cost-sharing reduction payments and a $30 billion reinsurance pool.
The bill was passed late Thursday night.
Big news on the health-care policy front: Democrats appear to be converging on an actual agenda if they win in 2020.
This is, as Gaba describes it, more than just patching up Obamacare to make up for the damage done by Congress, states and design flaws in the original bill. It’s an upgraded version of the Affordable Care Act. At the same time, it’s nowhere close to the various single-payer or “Medicare for all” proposals that liberals have been spending a lot of time talking about over the last two years.
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The Trump administration this month announced its own effort to update the Electronic Health Record systems, which disrupt the doctor-patient relationship. The government could do even more good by deregulating EHRs, establishing a free market for user-friendly products. Perhaps Amazon, through its partnership with JP Morgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway , could eventually do for medicine what it’s done for retail.
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