What’s Next for Health Care Reform?
Over the past several years, we have occasionally used this blog space to keep you up-to-date on the developments in Washington regarding the Affordable Care Act and the legislative efforts to reform the health care system. As you probably know, the Congress failed to pass legislation designed to repeal the ACA and replace it with new Republican-drafted legislation. Now that Congress returns to session after their August recess, what can we in the health care industry expect to happen regarding the future of health care reform?
Regardless of what anyone may say about the Affordable Care Act and its impact on the health care industry, it is indisputable that the system is still broken. American citizens still pay too much for health care, in fact, more than any other country on earth. Families are saddled with untenable rises in their insurance premiums, and even though they are covered, many can’t afford to use their insurance because of the high cost of deductibles. And insurance choice has all but vanished as major health insurers have pulled out of markets in droves leaving some U.S. counties with only one insurer. By 2019, some markets will not have any insurers willing to provide coverage. In the midst of this gloom and doom, what can be done to right this sinking ship?
It is time to work together. No matter what your political affiliation may be, it is abundantly clear that the one party system of government isn’t working. In the past, although begrudgingly, both parties would ultimately come together to pass bipartisan legislation. In today’s Congress, the party in power does everything in a silo as evidenced by the ACA which was passed without a single Republican vote in Congress and the counter legislative effort to repeal and replace it was controlled by Republicans. It appears the gridlock may start to lift as the Senate Health Committee has pledged to hold bipartisan committee meetings targeting the ACA insurance market. Another proposal, being drafted by a bipartisan Governor group led by Kasich(R) of Ohio and Hickenlooper (D) of Colorado to stabilize ACA will be submitted to the Senate Health Committee for consideration. Unfortunately, the clock is ticking as the destabilized market may force insurers to increase insurance premiums even further to cover their losses.
Can HSA’s provide any relief? Many analysts believe that Health Savings Accounts (HSA’s) could provide some relief to consumers if they are authorized for premium payments. HSA’s were created to allow consumers to set aside money tax-free to help pay for medical expenses. The intent was to allow consumers to have more control over how their health care dollars were being spent by allowing them to shop around for care and to also roll over any unused money into the next year. HSA use has grown by more than 23% in the past year which could bode well for lawmakers who want to expand HSA use and allow consumers to pay their insurance premiums with the tax-free dollars they have set aside.
Uncertainty in the short-term. The only thing that is for certain is that it will be a very busy fall for those on Capitol Hill. Congress is slated to begin working on tax reform, and the health care overhaul is still on the stove in some form or fashion. As this new legislative session begins, we will bring you updates as they are released, but it is far too early to answer the big question of “What’s Next for Health Care Reform?”
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