Linda Delaney: Don’t play with health care during recess
Just because the Senate did not manage to pass multiple bills to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act — or ObamaCare — does not mean the efforts are over. Congress may be on vacation but all the tweets from the “summer White House” make it clear the subject is still on the front burner.
The President has repeatedly said they should let the ACA fail and blame the Democrats. This administration has already done a tremendous amount of damage to the ACA, and it is not that hard to further vandalize the current law.
Tom Price is the secretary of health and human services and, as chairman of the House Budget Committee, spent the last seven years trying to repeal Obamacare. Now, he has 1,442 chances to damage the ACA beyond repair.
The original legislation has that many citations that say, “The Secretary shall…” or “The Secretary may…,” and Price has vowed to look at every single one. He has wide discretion in enforcing reporting regulations for insurers, hospitals and physicians. At a minimum, he has discretion in how data are collected so that alone can quietly undermine the ACA.
The original bill provided funding for HHS to advertise signup dates and options for ACA coverage to encourage those paying a penalty for having no proof of insurance to obtain insurance. In January, those funds were not used for that purpose, and there is no reason to be optimistic they will be used this fall. In fact, Trump signed an executive order as soon as he took office allowing the IRS to issue refunds to individuals who had paid the penalty.
The next and best way to undermine the ACA is to discontinue the cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments to the insurance companies that help offset the losses they incur from covering medical expenses that consumers would normally have to pay until they reach their deductibles. Those payments are consistently behind, and the President has threatened to discontinue them.
Health insurers have been warning for months that eliminating the payments could destabilize the Obamacare marketplaces, and the uncertainty has already caused insurers to discontinue coverage or greatly increase premiums. Insurance companies were hoping the CSR payments would be included in the upcoming budget but the Whitehouse and GOP leaders refused, so, even if the administrative funding continues, there is no protection from future threats.
The most recent Kaiser Family Foundation Poll shows that 78 percent of Americans want Congress to find a way to make Obamacare work — repair, not repeal. But make no mistake, the undermining and sabotaging of the ACA is not over.
Without a bill in Congress, watching the government plans for health care gets more complicated but not less important. Encourage Sen. Bennet to keep his eye on the ball (202-224-5852) and keep telling Sen. Gardner (202-224-5941) and Secretary Price (202-690-7000) that the ACA needs repair, not repeal.
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