Another Poor Score

  

Today’s Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report confirms what we already suspected: despite last minute changes made prior to a misguided and party-line House vote, the American Health Care Act (AHCA) seriously threatens health coverage affordability, access, and care delivery, and would cause roughly 14 million individuals to lose coverage by 2018, and 23 million to lose coverage by 2026.

The American Nurses Association (ANA) remains opposed to the AHCA and urges the Senate to abandon the bill advanced by the House in favor of a more transparent process that truly aims to expand access to affordable quality care.

Photo: Carlos Barria, Reuters
Photo: Carlos Barria, Reuters

According to the report, the AHCA would allow for various waivers that would undermine protections for those with pre-existing conditions, and undercut access to essential health benefits for roughly one-sixth of the population. Taken together, these waivers would cause premiums to “vary significantly according to health status and the types of benefits provided, and less healthy people would face extremely high premiums,” according to the CBO. “Over time, it would become more difficult for less healthy people (including people with pre-existing medical conditions) in [states that make use of the waivers] to purchase insurance because their premiums would continue to increase rapidly.”

The bill also continues to pose a serious threat to those Americans who rely on Medicaid, a majority of whom are children. Rolling back state expansion of Medicaid would effectively cut off coverage for millions of low-income Americans and further upend the health care landscape.

Though today’s score was marginally better than the first assessment released in March, the negative consequences for those who need care most remain extreme. In particular, the CBO noted that “out-of-pocket spending on maternity care and mental health and substance abuse services could increase by thousands of dollars in a given year for” those not covered by group health insurance plans.

The ANA encourages the Senate to draft a comprehensive health care plan that protects Americans from being denied insurance coverage because of pre-existing conditions and provides access to affordable health insurance coverage plans that offer a minimum standard of benefits. These include preventative services and screenings, inpatient and outpatient services, prescription drug coverage, mental health, maternity services, and chronic disease management.

The American Health Care Act Threatens the Health of Our Nation’s Children

  

As I covered previously, the U.S. House of Representatives on May 4, 2017, recklessly passed the American Health Care Act by a 217-213 vote. They did so with little transparency, thoughtful debate, or meaningful stakeholder input. Crucially, they also passed this bill without even knowing its potential impacts on the ability of Americans to access quality health care services. Based on an analysis of the previous version of the American Health Care Act, however, this bill would likely result in the loss of health care coverage for 24 million Americans, potential restrictions for 15 million Americans with pre-existing conditions, and $800 billion+ in Medicaid funding slashed over ten years.

According to a report released on May 18 by Avalere Health, children would be significantly impacted by the proposed Medicaid changes in the American Health Care Act. Funding for children on Medicaid would be slashed by up to $43 billion over ten years under a per capita cap plan, while it would be slashed by up to$78 billion under a block grant plan (read more about block grants here). While Medicaid is often discussed in terms of an entitlement and with a particular focus on the controversial Medicaid expansion, its impact on children’s health care does not receive nearly as much attention. Children represent the largest group of enrollees covered by Medicaid, and the program covers nearly half of all births in the United States. Medicaid provides crucial health care services to children and, under Early and Periodic, Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment (EPSDT) requirements, these children cannot be denied necessary care. This health care (or lack of) impacts the health of the child for the rest of his or her life; a healthy child is more likely to grow into a healthy adult.

As we wait for the American Health Care Act to move to the U.S. Senate for consideration, the American Nurses Association encourages all 100 senators to consider the stakes of this bill for the health of our nation’s children. Access to quality health care for children not only ensures that they are healthy in the here and now, but also ensures that we are raising a healthy and productive generation of Americans who are able to lead productive lives to the best of their abilities. ANA also urges the Senate to reject the flawed American Health Care Act – which flies in the face of our stated health care reform principles – and to undertake a deliberative, thoughtful, and transparent process which produces a piece of legislation which ensures quality health care access to all Americans.

National Nurses Week Recognized on Capitol Hill

  

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In honor of National Nurses Week, ANA has worked with Congress to celebrate nurses for their expertise, compassion, and vital role they play in our nation’s healthcare system.

On May 4th, Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), the first registered nurse elected to Congress, introduced House Resolution 315. This resolution states that the U.S. House of Representatives supports the goals and ideals of National Nurses Week as founded by the American Nurses Association. It notes that as nurse staffing levels increase, the risk of patient complications and length of hospital stays decrease, resulting in cost savings. Further, it acknowledges that nurses consistently deliver high-quality care with positive patient outcomes when they are allowed to work to the full extent of their education and training.

Rep. Johnson called her resolution a small token of gratitude and recognition for all the hard work nurses perform. “As a non-practicing registered nurse and member of the Congressional Nursing Caucus, I am acutely aware of how valuable nurses are to the medical system, patients, and our society,” said Johnson. “Whether in hospitals, nursing homes, community clinics, or any other setting, nurses are integral to patient care. Nurses are our greatest resource in eliminating health disparities and alleviating chronic disease as they exemplify and lead prevention and public health efforts.”

The Co-Chairs of the Senate Nursing Caucus, Sens. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), introduced an identical resolution officially honoring May 6-12 as National Nurses Week. Their resolution recognizes nurses as strong allies to Congress, experienced researchers, and the cornerstone of the public health infrastructure.

On May 11th, a bipartisan group of Senators introduced S. 1109, the Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act. Led by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Richard Burr (R-NC), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Susan Collins (R-ME), this legislation would reauthorize, update and improve programs that help to grow and support the nursing workforce in the United States.

“As the husband of a nurse, I hear firsthand about the challenges and successes that come with working on the frontlines of our health care system,” said Merkley. “Every day, nurses take on difficult, essential, and often thankless tasks that keep our health care system running and that have a huge impact on the patient experience. Each of us has a story about the nurse who made all the difference at a frightening or difficult time for our families. I’ll keep fighting to improve federal policy to fully recognize and support the essential role of nurses in our health care system, and I invite all Oregonians to join me in recognizing the tremendous work of our Oregon nurses this National Nurses Week.”

Additionally, ANA co-sponsored two Hill briefings with the Nursing Community in collaboration with the House and Senate Nursing Caucuses. The series was entitled “Transforming Health and Health Care: Nursing Workforce and Research.” The first briefing featured nursing experts who made a clear case to Congress for funding nursing education by highlighting ways the nursing profession is meeting healthcare needs of the nation. The second briefing focused on the contributions of nursing science as it relates to care across the continuum, including data science and precision health. The speakers discussed nurses’ leading role in research innovations and how nurse science has helped improve patient outcomes.

As we bring Nurses Week to a close, The Hill published an op-ed by President Pamela F. Cipriano, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, urging Congress to cut through the red tape to help Medicare beneficiaries get the care they need by passing S.444/HR 1825, the Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act. This legislation would authorize nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, and certified nurse midwives as eligible healthcare professionals who can certify patient eligibility for home health care services under Medicare.

Happy Nurses Week and thank you for the meaningful work you do every single day!!