Yesterday, the United States Senate released its version of the American Health Care Act called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017. This is a discussion draft and changes may be forthcoming in the days ahead. Senate leadership is working to gain the required support for the legislation to hold a vote before the July 4th recess, however, several Republican Senators have publicly stated they will not support the bill at this time. As you may remember, the U.S. House of Representatives passed their version of this bill (H.R. 1628) on May 4, 2017. As we continue to review the legislation, we wanted to provide you with an initial overview.
The legislation would restructure how Medicaid funds are disbursed to states, transitions states out of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) authorized expansion, and changes various eligibility rules for Medicaid beneficiaries. It would also repeal the employer and individual mandate and several health care related taxes. The bill also provides funding to states for subsidies for low income individuals to purchase insurance and to help balance premium costs and promote choice in the insurance market. The legislation allows increased contributions to Health Savings Accounts and implements a new income based tax credit for health insurance coverage. The bill does not make any changes to Medicare, Veterans or Social Security benefits. Unlike the House passed version, the Senate proposal would not allow states to opt-out of ensuring coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, but it would still allow insurance companies to charge higher premiums for older beneficiaries and to waive certain health benefits. The bill also includes $2 billion in Fiscal Year 2018 to address the opioid crisis, which is less than the allocated funding in the House bill.
As we have stated previously, AANP is committed to ensuring that all patients have access to high quality health care, including the essential health benefits, delivered by the provider of their choice. As the Senate continues debate on their legislation, it is important that you utilize the AANP Advocacy Center and send letters to your Senators emphasizing that any final legislation must protect patient access to Medicaid, Medicare and other programs which cover the cost of care.
Make sure to read next week’s Government Affairs newsletter for a more in-depth summary and updates as this situation evolves.
Cindy Cooke, DNP, FNP-C, FAANP