Last week, there was flurry of activity and chatter on Capitol Hill surrounding the ACA’s repeal-and-replace. Much of the focus surrounded Congressional Republican’s three-day retreat in Philadelphia, where House and Senate Republicans were expected to plot their legislative agenda for the 115th Congress.
Congressional leaders held a special session on Thursday morning to try to reach a consensus on how to move forward on an ACA repeal and replacement strategy; unfortunately, no consensus was reached, which seemed to suggest that House and Senate Republicans were more divided on how to move forward than previously thought.
In the House, Speaker Ryan (R-WI) suggested on Thursday a more piecemeal approach towards health reform that’s focused on a “repeal and repair” of the system. Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), a close Ryan ally, later this week will consider four separate bills that affect changes to the individual market in the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The changes would permit insurers to tighten enrollment periods, an attempt to try to ensure coverage for pre-existing conditions, and consideration on a measure to allow insurers to charge seniors higher rates. The committee will also examine potential reforms to the Medicaid program.
In the Senate, Senators Cassidy (R-LA) and Collins (R-ME) introduced the Patient Freedom Act. Hoping to chart a path that gives states options for reform, the bill would allow states to either 1) keep the ACA as is, 2) switch to a different insurance expansion plan that auto-enrolls individuals into a subsidized catastrophic plan, or 3) move forward with a repeal and no coverage expansion (meaning states would lose federal Medicaid expansion funds).
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), also introduced his own bill. His legislation primarily focused on repealing the ACA’s employer and individual mandates, which includes a repeal of the ban on pre-existing conditions. The plan includes a two-year open enrollment period in which individuals with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied, but by and large the bill emphasizes tax credits and a more deregulated health market as an alternative to the ACA.
Stay tuned for more activity on Capitol Hill this week on the healthcare reform front.