Senate Health Committee to Hold Bipartisan Hearings
The Senate Health Committee is scheduled to hold back to back open committee meetings onwith the goal of a strong, bipartisan effort to secure access to health insurance coverage for all Americans. With the failure of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and the continued threats from the While House to stop promised payments to insurers who are offering coverage, Senate leaders are taking steps to ensure the market stabilizes and Americans are not left without coverage.
The politically fraught infighting over Medicaid, Medicare, regulatory compliance, and other specific areas of concern in the Affordable Care Act have led to many Americans and the health insurance industry to wonder if Americans are about to lose their health insurance coverage, or if it will become so expensive that the majority of Americans will not be able to afford premiums. The bipartisan committee meetings scheduled forare going to bring together state governors, stakeholders, and insurance company executives in an effort to add transparency and on the ground problem solving to the issues of private health insurance coverage. The Affordable Care Act promised subsidies to insurance companies that provided stabilized or lower cost health insurance to individuals. The continued threat from the White House to stop those subsidies is seen as destabilizing this market.
But Americans want to see government leadership working together, across the political aisles, and with transparency and input from experts in the field. The Senate Health Committee hopes to calm the industry fears that insurers would have to hike the price of premiums, leading to loss of coverage for a large number of Americans. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that premium hikes of up to 20% for some plans is probable if the White House stops the shared-cost or subsidy payments.
Industry leaders have asked for the promised subsidies to continue through 2018 at least, so they have time to find alternatives; the president has agreed to continue payments through August, 2017. This line is the sand continues to produce anger and fear among those who will have their lives and health threatened by the move. This bipartisan effort will, hopefully, deal with some of that uncertainty.
The Senate failed to gather the needed support to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and at this point it would be futile to continue the fight to repeal a system that will continue to be the law of the land. Several issues remain areas of contention, however, and will need to be addressed by lawmakers.
State plans to make high-risk pools of people based on medical diagnoses is very divisive, as is the controversy over how to continue to fund Medicaid, which protects the most vulnerable populations in the country. The population covered by Medicare is growing, though not as rapidly as health care costs. Small business believes the regulatory compliance burden, and the cost sharing burden for health insurance is too great. Those working in the safety net are concerned about exclusion and the effects of loss of access to those who are most disadvantaged. If those with serious mental health disability lose their access to their medications, for instance, or if those with TB or HIV lose access to their meds, the morbidity and mortality across America could be catastrophic. If public health clinics lose the ability to provide immunizations and well child care, consequences may echo for years.
But for now, lawmakers have a new mandate regarding health care in America: work together, work with transparency, stop the partisan infighting, and listen to the experts in the field about the effects of health care legislative decisions on the health of the American people. The scheduled Senate Health Committee hearings should be a good first step.
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