June 28, 2017

Health bill could stifle Texas' job growth, report says

17 June 2017, 05:26 | Archie Newman

GUEST EDITORIAL: Make health care affordable by using the open market

Democratic forum gives voice to fears about health care overhaul

The House voted in May to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, a major win for President Donald Trump.

Just over the last month, health insurance companies have initiated requests to the state Department of Financial Services for individual and small group rate increases.

"It's fascinating", said Chris Sloan, a policy expert with the Avalere Health consulting firm. Communities are spread out, more residents are older and have more health issues than those who live in cities, and rural residents may have less money to pay for everything they need or health insurance to pay for all of their health care needs. It's partly because there are a lot of people who are eligible for Medicaid coverage or subsidized private health insurance who haven't signed up.

"This is the same office that anticipated Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) exchanges would have more than 20 million enrolled", Thompson said.

Using analytical tools measuring 30 factors, the report said Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia are most at risk if the American Health Care Act (AHCA), as passed by the House on May 4, becomes law. "Health care does not go away, the need for care does not go away when Medicaid is cut", said Regina Rogoff of the People's Community Clinic. But at first blush the impact appears to be less dramatic.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated in May that if approved by 2026, the plan could reduce the cumulative federal deficit by $119 billion, but the number of uninsured could continue to rise, reaching 23 million over the next decade. As a result, there is no way that the program can shrink by 25 percent (as under the AHCA) or nearly 50 percent (as under the Trump budget), without hurting these people.

The Byrd rule states that a reconciliation bill can only include provisions directly related to the budget and deficit reduction, such as changes to the tax code. This, presumably, is why Trump reportedly told Republican senators that the House bill is "mean". The bill has moved to the Senate, but there have been no public hearings or copies of the Senate's proposal available to the public. "The public will be lucky to examine the handiwork of an all-male group of Republican senators for three days before they try to ram it through", writes Scott Lemieux in the Los Angeles Times.

The HHS experts projected forward almost a decade, estimating that sticker-price premiums would average $801 a month in 2026 if the Obama law stays in place.

"I really appreciate what you're doing to come out with a bill that's going to be a phenomenal bill for the people of our country". Both those shifts lead to higher deductibles and copayments. It will also increase out-of-pocket costs for enrollees - increasing cost-sharing by 61 percent, according to the Medicare Actuary's estimate.

"You can see the promise of lower premiums holding up", said Sloan. It also raises serious concerns about whether those in the individual market who have a pre-existing condition related to addiction, including opioid addictions, will be able to purchase affordable insurance, leaving them without access to care.

Cuomo's administration is also looking to finalize regulations to ensure contraceptive drugs and devices are covered by health insurance policies without co-pays, coinsurance or deductibles - no matter what lawmakers in Washington, D.C., do. I think that that's a much broader and larger topic of discussion as we go into our next legislative session and beyond.

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