Health care legislating ain’t pretty. In many cases, it’s downright coyote ugly. Particularly in the absence of a coherent and consistent majority in favor of substantially revising the status quo. Hence, today’s Senate Republican leadership “discussion draft” bill.
To be fair, leaders can’t go where they don’t have enough followers. So a good bit of today’s exaggerated reactions on the Right involves failure to come to terms with the divergence between past feel-better rhetoric and today’s grimmer political realities. There are neither enough votes nor popular support to repeal Obamacare simplistically, or engineer a softer landing toward substantial reform of the ACA — let alone offer a long-term path toward market-based health policy in practice. A long parade of mistakes in politics and policy were made AFTER March 2010 that helped deliver us to today’s limited set of legislative options.
. . .
Senate Republicans plan to vote before the July 4 recess on their legislation to repeal and replace ObamaCare.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has little margin for error, as he can afford just two defections from his conference with all Democrats expected to oppose the bill. Vice President Mike Pence could then be called in to break the tie.
Here’s a look at where McConnell’s conference stands on the legislation, which was unveiled on Thursday.
. . .
The House-passed bill left large numbers of Americans uninsured, in part because very low-income households could not afford to enroll in private coverage even with the House’s tax credits. Medicaid is the nation’s safety net insurance program. In practical terms, there is no real alternative to Medicaid for a person below the poverty line. Under the approach recommended here, federal Medicaid funding would be dispensed to the states to strengthen the safety net for the poor, even as there would be less support for expanding the program to persons with higher incomes.
. . .
Enough insurers are planning to sell coverage on the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges next year to keep them working — if only barely — in most parts of the country.
Competition in many markets has dwindled to one insurer — or none in some cases — and another round of steep price hikes is expected to squeeze consumers who don’t receive big income-based tax credits to help pay their bill.
“What we’re seeing is a deterioration in these markets, but the markets haven’t imploded, they haven’t gone into a rapid downward decline,” said Dan Mendelson, president of the consulting firm Avalere.
. . .
Highlighting the continued uncertainty around the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, insurers announced major changes to their offerings for next year, including pullbacks that potentially leave more counties without exchange plans.
Anthem Inc. said it will exit the marketplaces in Wisconsin and Indiana next year, while nonprofit MDwise said it too would leave the Indiana exchange. Those moves may leave four Indiana counties at risk of having no exchange insurers in 2018, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, though its researchers cautioned the outlook remains unclear. An estimated 44 counties in Ohio, Washington and Missouri will likely face a similar situation.
. . .
Republicans are facing a critical test of Senate unity in the Trump era as leaders prepare to unveil a healthcare bill that they have grappled over in secrecy to reconcile the conflicting demands of party factions.
President Donald Trump’s policy ambitions depend on Republicans’ ability to bridge deep internal divisions, and after false starts on healthcare in the House of Representatives earlier this year the drama now moves to the Senate.
Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, has promised to release a draft healthcare bill on Thursday, incorporating substantial revisions to a measure that passed the House in May. But whether it will secure enough votes to pass the Senate remains in doubt.
Healthcare reform has become a quagmire for Mr Trump, who campaigned on a pledge to repeal his predecessor’s Obamacare reforms. But he has seen efforts falter as his party disagrees on who should get health insurance and how it will be paid.
. . .
nsurance startup Oscar Insurance Corp. said it plans to expand its offerings in the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, as insurers face a federal deadline Wednesday for initial filings to participate in the health law’s exchanges next year.
Oscar, which has been under a spotlight partly because of its tie to the Trump administration, said it aims to begin selling ACA plans in Tennessee for the first time in 2018, and re-enter the exchange in New Jersey, where it sat out this year. The insurer also will expand the regions where it sells ACA plans in California and Texas, and will continue selling plans in its home market of New York. Last week, Oscar announced that it will begin selling marketplace plans in Ohio next year, working with the Cleveland Clinic.
. . .
The struggles faced by Presidents Obama and Trump since the passage of the Affordable Care Act have created the impression that it’s impossible to successfully reform American health care. On the non-group market, premiums have soared, networks have narrowed, individuals have refused to enroll, and insurers have fled the marketplace. But despite the dysfunction of the market that was the primary focus of the ACA’s reforms, employer-provided coverage and the Medicare program have never been in better shape. Under those arrangements, which cover the majority of Americans, spending growth has abated, quality of care is improving, and premiums are rising at the slowest rate in recent memory. President Obama tried to claim credit for these trends, but they actually date to 2003, when President Bush pushed his own signature legislative achievement, the Medicare Modernization Act, through Congress.
. . .
The Trump administration has made critical ObamaCare payments to insurers for the month of June but won’t provide any certainty about whether they’ll continue in the future.
The payments, known as cost sharing reduction subsidies, reimburse insurers for providing discounts to low-income patients.
Insurers have been threatening to raise premiums — or leave the ObamaCare markets — if they don’t receive certainty about the payments from Congress or the White House.
. . .
The health care industry killed Hillarycare in the 1990s and cut deals to shape Obamacare more to its liking in 2009. But now, as Republicans push a sweeping and widely reviled health bill through Congress, the industry has often appeared declawed in the biggest health care fight of the decade.
It’s a deliberate strategy, interviews with nearly 20 lobbyists and other experts suggest. Health industry groups generally don’t love Obamacare enough to jeopardize their ability to shape the rest of the Republican agenda — including big corporate tax cuts. They also fear incurring White House retaliation.
. . .