With all cards on the table, is this Pay or Play 2.0?
New changes in the last 24 hours were made among them:
1. Repeal the 10 essential health benefits mandate (Conservative Caucus)
2. Add an addition $15B into a flexibility fund (for states to manage Medicaid) (Coverage Caucus – side note here – Senator Cassidy R-LA – who worked with Senator Collins R-ME on a separate bill is heading the coverage caucus as they are working to keep coverage in the Medicaid programs)
3. Keep the .9% Medicare tax for high-income earners making over $200,000 filing single for six more years – this would be to keep bringing in new revenue (This was originally in the bill to sunset as of 2018, then adjusted to sunset this year but looks to be sunsetted in 6 years)
What else did I miss?
Earlier this week, additional changes were made to the bill as it was attempted to garner enough votes to pass on the floor of the House. Most of these are changes in implementation dates to appeal to different parts of the House GOP.
1. Moving the repeal of the Tanning & Medical Device tax from 2018 to 2017
2. Moving the repeal of the business tax cap for executives in health insurance companies from 2018 to 2017
3. Sunset new Medicaid expansion for states that have not expanded from 2020 to 2017 (Kansas is currently trying to expand Medicaid as we speak)
4. NY Representatives add an amendment to move $2.3B Medicaid costs from local (county – excluding large metropolises like NYC) to the State Budget
5. Lower the medical expense deduction from 7.5% under the original bill now to a new low of 5.8% and to move up implementation from 2018 to 2017
6. Delay Cadillac tax from 2025 now pushed out to 2026
7. Repeal the maximums and over the counter medication bans on Flexible Spending Accounts from 2018 to 2017
8. Increase the HSA limits to maximum out of pocket costs from 2018 to 2017
What does this all mean? Well, to be absolutely frank – not much, if they don’t have the votes today. What does it mean in the future, though, EVERYTHING.
I don’t think you will find someone who doesn’t think we have work to do on the ACA. I am the first to say it. I also think that we have to get a bi-partisan committee to work together with consumer groups; AARP; AHIP; AHA; AMA and the healthcare consulting (i.e. the broker) community. We are in the battle on a daily basis. We know what can work and what should work and this needs to be done right and it needs to be done soon.
There are good ideas out there and we have to approach this on a more macro level and look at the outside forces that are affecting the current delivery system, i.e. lowering the cost of pharmaceuticals by introducing competition; providing incentives for smaller companies to do more development on generic alternatives; banning pharmaceutical companies from shelving generic patents when they become available; more efficient medical record data sharing; cutting out redundancy; providing affordable medical malpractice insurance programs to incent OBGYNs and other speciality providers who want to provide care but can’t afford the malpractice premiums; identifying high-cost chronic conditions and look at possibly pooling them into a national program such as Medicare, as we do with End Stage Renal Disease; providing TRANSPARENCY to the consumer by giving them the means to shop for a procedure with outcomes and cost as easily as they can today with houses; technology and cars; getting more funding and education to fight the opioid epidemic.
We cannot continue to kick the can down the road, adjust the programs to suit a small group of interest. The health of this country is at stake; the health of its citizens are at stake and millions of jobs are at stake. We need to pull this out of the halls of Congress and get the experts, who manage this, at the table now before it is too late.
There are solutions, there is a way – but we have to do this together with experts and support it as a country. This is one thing neither party should own but every party should want to see succeed.