Congress Passed a New Health Care Bill: Here’s What it Does

By Max FriedmanPhysician reading xray.

For the first time in years, Congress has passed a big, bipartisan health care bill.

On Tuesday night, the Senate passed H.R. 2, the Medicare and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) of 2015, by a vote of 92-8, after it was passed last month in the House by a similarly large margin.  The bill garnered the support of Connecticut’s entire congressional delegation and President Obama has signaled that he will sign it.

The bill repeals a controversial payment reform program in Medicare, provides two years of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which insures 13,530 children in Connecticut under HUSKY, and provides funds for community health centers.  The bill will help Connecticut’s budget picture, cutting the state’s share of the program to 12 percent from the 45 percent of the cost it currently pays, according to the CT Mirror.

Senator Richard Blumenthal said that, “With this legislation, healthcare for our seniors is no longer threatened, and there is no longer uncertainty for the doctors who treat them. Senior citizens and their doctors will rightfully have the resources and support they need to ensure quality care is delivered and received.”

Senator Chris Murphy noted the bill,  “Finally gives certainty to Connecticut seniors and doctors that Medicare rates will be stable into the future while also extending funding for community health centers and Connecticut’s children enrolled in HUSKY.”

Many advocates were hoping for a four year funding extension of CHIP to bring it through a transition period laid out in the ACA, however, this two year plan provides a clean funding extension, excluding some of the regressive proposals advocated by some policymakers.

Here are some great resources about MACRA:

  • Kaiser Health News has a FAQ of MACRA.
  • Sarah Kliff of Vox explains what the Sustainable Growth Rate in Medicare is, and the different attempts at payment reform of the broader health care system through Medicare.
  • Shannon Attanasio of FamiliesUSA provides a rundown of the bill’s impact on CHIP
  • Elisabeth Wright Burak of Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families hails the bill as a clean extension of CHIP, easing the transition for many children from children-specific programs to ACA marketplace plans.

We’ve previously written about CHIP in February and March.


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