The House Energy and Commerce Committee during a hearing on Thursday considered draft legislation intended to stabilize the health insurance market while Republicans seek to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
According to Modern Healthcare, the draft bills could be used as part of Republicans' efforts to repeal the ACA and then replace the law with separate, smaller measures instead of one, more comprehensive bill. Republicans hope that Democrats might support some of the smaller measures, Modern Healthcare reports.
The hearing focused on the:
- Health Coverage State Flexibility Act of 2017, which would decrease the amount of time insurers must continue to provide coverage for enrollees who miss premium payments from 90 days, as mandated under the ACA, to one month or a period of time defined by individual states;
- Plan Verification and Fairness Act of 2017, which would require HHS to verify individuals meet requirements for special enrollment periods before insurers begin providing coverage for such individuals;
- Pre-existing Conditions Protection and Continuous Coverage Incentive Act of 2017, which includes protections for individuals with pre-existing medical conditions who have maintained continuous coverage; and
- State Age Rating Flexibility Act of 2017, which would allow insurers to charge older enrollees up to five times more for premiums than they charge younger enrollees, up from the ACA's limit of three times more.
According to Modern Healthcare, hearing attendees did not discuss all of the measures in detail. But some attendees expressed concerns about what the measure could mean for individuals' access to coverage.
For example, Democrats voiced concerns about the draft bill related to pre-existing conditions, which does not yet include language defining what continuous coverage would mean under the policy. In addition, according to Modern Healthcare, discussion at the hearing suggested that the measure would allow insurers to link premium rates with enrollees' health status, meaning premiums could be higher for individuals with serious medical conditions.
Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) said Democrats are willing to work with Republicans, but he called the pre-existing condition proposal incomplete, adding that it could "reduc[e] people's access to care and mak[e] it more expensive."
According to The Hill, Democrats also expressed opposition to increasing how much more insurers can charge older enrollees than younger enrollees.
Further, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) criticized Republicans for not offering more details on how they intend to repeal and replace the ACA. He said, "No one has a problem making improvements to the ACA," but added that Republicans are "not seeking to make improvements. [They're] seeking to repeal [the ACA] without saying how [they'll] replace it."
Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office who testified at the hearing, said the measures reflect "sensible policy that could garner bipartisan support." However, Holtz-Eakin after the hearing expressed doubt about whether Democrats would be receptive to the bills (Meyer, Modern Healthcare, 2/2; Meyer, Modern Healthcare, 1/30; Hellmann, The Hill, 2/2; Minemyer, FierceHealthcare, 2/2).
Navigating the first 100 days of the Trump administration
Since Donald Trump won the presidential election in November, health care reform has since quickly risen to the top of the GOP's policy agenda—and heath care executives are grappling with a new sense of uncertainty.
While many unknowns will remain across the next few months and potentially even years, the first 100 days of the Trump administration will provide significant insight into the direction of reform efforts. Read our briefing to learn what five key issues you should watch.