What’s happening with health care reform?

UPDATE (SEPT. 22, 2017) – Over the next few days, Senate Republicans will attempt one last-ditch effort to pass new health care legislation. The new proposed bill, sponsored by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), would have a devastating effect on cancer prevention, screening and early detection by eliminating the Prevention and Public Health Fund; a lifeline to underserved communities that provides screenings and vaccinations to those who can’t afford them.

Further, the plan would allow states to offer waivers to insurers, granting them the ability to charge sick patients higher premiums and stop coverage of certain benefits under the Affordable Care Act, such as preventive screenings and early detection services. Without preserving these essential components, Senators are actively putting millions of Americans at risk of losing access to life-saving health coverage.

Senator Ron Johnson (R-WS), a co-sponsor of the bill, has announced that he will hold a hearing on next Tuesday, September 26th in the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee — on which he serves as the chairman. Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said he will also plan a floor vote for next week.

Let your Senator know that prevention is critically important and necessary for any health care legislation moving forward!

UPDATE (JUL. 26, 2017)—In a vote of 52-48, the Senate today voted down a bill that would have dismantled current health care law without a replacement bill. The bill would have eliminated the individual and employer mandates, marketplaces and subsidies—and taxes on the wealthy.

A vote is expected later this week on yet another bill, which would also eliminate the individual and employer mandates currently in place; however a number of provisions of the current health care law would remain in effect at least for the time being.

Unclear is whether the Prevention and Public Health Fund would be revoked as part of the debate. Scrapping this important program, would have a devastating effect on cancer prevention and early detection by taking away money from community organizations that provide screenings and vaccinations to those who can’t afford them.

Prevention saves lives! Please contact your senators today and tell them they must protect prevention.

(JUL. 25, 2017)—Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled he will push for a vote on health care reform this week; however, it is unclear on which bill the Senate will actually vote. Representatives from both parties say they have not been given a clear indication from leadership regarding next steps. Currently, there are four different bills that could potentially be raised for a vote, but none of them support prevention. Add your voice to the conversation and let your senators know prevention is something we cannot afford to lose! 

(JUN. 23, 2017)—After weeks of wondering and debate, Senate Republicans released their version of a health care reform bill. While the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 looks largely like its House counterpart, which passed last month, unfortunately it is even worse for prevention. You can learn more about the bill and contact your senators’ office here.

(MAY 04, 2017)—The American Health Care Act passed in the House of Representatives and will now move to a skeptical Senate, where the bill is likely to change.

(MAY 03, 2017)—Two new amendments were recently added to the American Health Care Act in hopes of reviving the bill. 

(MAR. 24, 2017)—After failing to secure the needed votes for the American Health Care Act, House Republicans today withdrew the American Health Care Act from consideration.

(MAR. 22, 2017)—House Republicans have made some changes to their proposed health care bill currently making its way through Congress. The Prevent Cancer Foundation® remains concerned about the potential impact on cancer prevention and early detection programs. Here’s what we know of it so far.

(MAR. 7, 2017)—Last night, the House released its replacement bill for the Affordable Care Act, the American Health Care Act. Here’s what we can say about the bill’s impact on the Prevent Cancer Foundation® priorities so far.

(JAN. 24, 2017 )—Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) have released the first proposal for a replacement for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) titled the “Patient Freedom Act.” Read more about it here.

(JAN. 23, 2017)—Shortly after the inauguration ended on Friday, President Donald Trump signed his first executive orders. Here’s a breakdown of how they could impact the Affordable Care Act.

(JAN. 13, 2017)—The House of Representatives voted on the budget resolution today and approved it by a vote of 227 to 198.  This means the House and Senate can move ahead quickly with the reconciliation vote that would officially repeal the ACA. 

(JAN. 13, 2017)— Last night, the Senate took a big step forward in repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). There are a lot of moving pieces, but we’ll take a look at what happened last night, what the next steps are, and what this means moving forward. We’ll also update this post as new events take place.

What could be repealed?

Prevention and Public Health Fund

The 2015 reconciliation bill eliminated the Prevention and Public Health Fund, and it’s likely to be a target with overall repeal as well. This Fund provides grants to state and local health organizations or nonprofits engaged in preventive screenings or health education. Programs receiving grants from the Prevention and Public Health Fund include anti-tobacco and anti-smoking campaigns, organizations providing breast and cervical cancer screenings, and organizations providing culturally-appropriate education on prostate and colorectal cancer screenings. The Prevention and Public Health Fund saves lives—research has shown that every 10 percent increase in funding for public health programs can reduce deaths from preventable causes by 1-7 percent. And it’s a smart use of our budget. Preventable diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease cost the economy up to $1.3 trillion annually in both health costs and lost productivity—money that can be saved through prevention.

Medicaid expansion

Through the ACA, federal funds were provided to states that expanded Medicaid access to all adults at or below 138 percent of the poverty line. Medicaid expansion and greater funding for the State Child Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) have provided coverage to an additional 12 million people compared to before the ACA was put into place. The ACA also requires Medicaid to cover preventive care and wellness programs that were not previously covered by the program.

The budget resolution makes it possible to cut off funding for Medicaid expansion, and there has been talk of restructuring Medicaid altogether. Because so many states with both Republican and Democratic governors have taken advantage of Medicaid expansion, there is a lot of support for this program.  However, the Senate last night voted down an amendment that would have protected Medicaid and Medicare from major changes through reconciliation alone. It’s unclear what will happen to this aspect of the Affordable Care Act. 

State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)

SCHIP, also commonly called CHIP, provides insurance to children whose families fall into a gap where they make too much to qualify for Medicaid and too little to pay for quality insurance. Before the requirement that insurance cover pre-existing conditions, the CHIP program also provided insurance for children with health problems whose families could not afford insurance on the private market. While this program existed before the Affordable Care Act, the program is up for renewal soon and was included as part of the overall health care reconciliation bill. An amendment was offered to exempt CHIP from the budget resolution, but the amendment did not pass.

Insurance mandates

The individual mandates—the requirement everyone must pay for insurance or else pay a fee—and the employer mandates—that every organization employing more than 50 people must provide insurance—will likely be eliminated. The point of these mandates is to control costs by guaranteeing that there are enough healthy people on various insurance plans to make the plans workable for insurance companies and keep costs from rising too high. These have been the most unpopular provisions of the Affordable Care Act and were included in previous reconciliation bills. 

Subsidies for insurance premiums

In order to live up to the “affordable” part of the Affordable Care Act, the ACA provides subsidies to those who purchase insurance on the health care exchanges. The subsidies are based on the price of the Silver—or mid-range—health care exchange plans and the recipient’s income. These have also been a point of debate around the Affordable Care Act, and can be eliminated through reconciliation.  It is likely that they would get cut during a reconciliation bill, but would probably stay in place for a transition period.

Guaranteed coverage for preventive care and pre-existing conditions

Right now, the ACA guarantees that insurance policies fully cover preventive services with no cost-sharing. These services include colonoscopy, mammography, pap smears and vaccination for hepatitis B and HPV. We know that providing these services for free, with no cost-sharing, increases screening rates. However, if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, we will lose guaranteed coverage for preventive services.

A similar patient protection that’s provided is the requirement that everyone have access to insurance, and that there is guaranteed coverage even for people with pre-existing conditions. An amendment was offered on Wednesday night exempting this provision from any repeal legislation, but that amendment failed. If this provision is eliminated, then someone who has been responsible about screening and received an early cancer diagnosis could, in the future, be denied coverage because of that earlier diagnosis and his or her status as a cancer survivor.