The Takeaway 2016 New Year’s Edition
Why Is This News?
2016 opened with yet another vote by the Republican controlled Congress to repeal the ACA coupled with more muttering about a replace agenda — we really really mean it this time. Maybe by the time we are celebrating the ACA’s 6th birthday we will see just how Congress proposed to avoid snatching coverage away from millions who now have it thanks to the ACA.
Truly the repeal rhetoric has long since passed the point of being a dead end. You can see that in the fact that conservative firebrand Gov. Matt Bevin (R-Kentucky) quickly backed away from his promise to repeal his state’s Medicaid expansion once it became clear that he might actually be in a position to carry it out. Recently he announced his intention to seek a waiver of some Medicaid rules while continuing to operate the program as is while negotiations proceed with CMS.
Resolutions for 2016
Instead of another year of empty rhetoric and gridlock, how about these for New Year’s resolutions for 2016:
Close the Medicaid Coverage Gap
A number of states, including LA, AL, NE, SD, and WY are having serious discussions about how to leverage federal funds to bring health and economic benefits to their state. Other states should not only join those debates but actually act to expand coverage for low income people. Given the demonstrated benefits of closing the gap, it is practically a crime not to do it.
Let’s Get Serious About Improving Affordability
Although the ACA has boosted access to health care and provided financial protection to millions of people, health care affordability remains a pressing problem that is in no way limited to people who get their coverage through the state marketplaces and Healthcare.gov. The affordability issue is multi-dimensional, but here are a few areas crying out for action:
- Premiums — The ACA does a lot to make premiums more affordable for those who lack employer sponsored insurance, but insurance still remains out of reach for too many.
- Out-of-pocket costs — Even those who have health insurance can often struggle to meet their cost-sharing obligations and face severe economic hardship as a result. Although in no way a complete solution, one place to start to tackle out-of-pocket costs is for states to address the problem of surprise out-of-network bills, which factor into a large share of the medical debt problems that people face.
- High drug prices — The rapidly escalating cost of prescription drugs contributes to both unaffordable premiums and to high out-of-pocket costs and medical debt. In 2016, both Congress and the states should take action to limit out-of-pocket costs for drugs, especially for those with chronic conditions, and also to rein in excessive drug prices for old and new medicines alike.
Reduce Gun Violence
Although Congressional Democrats were unable to lift the CDC research ban on the health implications of America’s gun epidemic during the budget debate, President Obama started the year off right with a commitment to use executive authority to expand background checks in gun sales .Governor Jay Inslee of Washington followed right behind. Already nearly 150 people in the U.S. have died in 2016 from gun related violence. If Congress and other states follow the president’s lead, we could reduce this tragic loss of life.
Here’s to a healthier 2016.