WASHINGTON, DC – June 27, 2017 – URAC Director of Government Relations Aaron Turner-Phifer discussed key points of the healthcare reform legislation now under consideration in the Senate during a 20-minute appearance on News 4 Your Sunday, which aired June 25 on the Washington, D.C.-based NBC4. Viewers can watch the entire 20-minute interview below.
“We’re in for a major change of the healthcare landscape—probably a generational change,” Turner-Phifer told host Pat Lawson Muse. “But I think even supporters of the Affordable Care Act would agree that some things need to change to make sure it continues.”
One of the key differences between the House and Senate-version of the GOP’s effort to “repeal and replace” Obamacare is how it would define those eligible for tax credits to pay for health insurance. The Senate version allows credits based on income level at Affordable Care Act levels of 400 percent of the federal poverty level($12,000 for an individual or $24,000 for a family of four) but beginning in 2020 the Senate bill reduces tax credit eligibility to 350 percent of the poverty level. Anyone earning up to 350 percent of the federal poverty level would be eligible for credits. The House version of reform utilized an age-based tax credit instead of the income version found in the ACA and Senate legislation.
Neither House nor Senate version would impact the transformation from fee-for-service to a value-based reimbursement model that was a cornerstone of the Affordable Care Act in 2010.
“There seems to be unanimous consensus on the political side and amongst the stakeholders that this [transformation to value-based reimbursement] is the right way to go,” Turner-Phifer said.
He reviewed other notable changes proposed by the Senate:
- No mandate: Rather than penalize consumers who fail to purchase a healthcare plan, the Senate instead aims to attract younger, healthier consumers by controlling premium costs.
- Covering essential health benefits and pre-existing conditions: The Senate proposal would allow states to pursue a waiver where they can decide which essential benefits they’ll provide, but won’t allow states to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions. Obamacare requires marketplace insurance plans to cover 10 essential health benefits and to cover treatment for pre-existing conditions.
- Rolling back the Medicaid expansion: The Senate version would phase out Obamacare's Medicaid expansion over four years by providing 90 percent of current federal funding in 2020 and decreasing this by five percent each year until 2023, when funding would be eliminated.
- One year of funding to fight the opioid crisis: The Senate bill creates a $2 billion fund in 2018 to help support programs that treat addiction and mental illness.
As a non-partisan organization, URAC has no formal position on the healthcare legislation. But Turner-Phifer does urge consumers and stakeholders alike to stay informed.
Healthcare accounts for “20 percent of the American economy,” he said. “This is going to impact you somewhere down the road, even if you’re not on Medicaid and even if you’re not on the exchanges.”
The Senate was aiming to vote on the legislation before its July 4 recess but has recently postponed a vote until after Senators return from the holiday break.