ACA Repeal and Replace Resurfaces

By Rosana Garcia

Less than two weeks from the announcement that the GOP and the President were “walking away” from repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, we hear that Vice President Pence presented a new health care offer to the Freedom Caucus.

While there is no drafted legislation, and few details, as far as we can tell, the latest changes would make the American Health Care Act (AHCA) worse, not better.

Remember AHCA would have had negative consequences for Connecticut (Read our blogs on it here and here).

The major changes being proposed?

Overnight, reports are that there is not enough support in the House to push for a vote this week.

The bottom line: repeal and replace is not dead, and the proposals are only getting worse.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

  • Call your Representative in Congress (Don’t know who they are? Look it up here!)
  • Thank them for protecting our health care, and tell them to keep at it!
  • Tell them your health care story, and what these changes would mean for you.

Getting in touch with your Representative:

Rosa DeLauro: DC Office – (202) 225-3661 | New Haven Office – (203) 562-3718

Elizabeth Esty: DC Office – (202) 225-4476 | New Britain Office – (860) 223-8412

Jim Himes: DC Office – (202) 225-5541 | Bridgeport Office – (203) 333-6600 or (866) 453-0028 | Stamford Office – (203) 353-9400

Joe Courtney: DC Office – (202) 225-2076 | Norwich Office – (860) 886-0139 | Enfield Office – (860) 741-6011

John Larson: DC Office – (202) 225-2265 | Hartford Office – (860) 278-8888

This is why protecting people’s health care is so important.  This is Stuart’s story:

Protect Our Care Sign Up

For a deeper dive into recent events:

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The Deal That Just Won’t Die: Anthem-Cigna Merger Appeal

By Jill Zorn

sgxyrj39-1368158231Friday, March 24 was a momentous day for those who care about access to quality affordable care.

Yes, it was the day that Donald Trump and Paul Ryan temporarily gave up on passing the (Un) American Health Care Act, which would have led to 24 million Americans losing health care coverage (As I write this, it seems likely that the Republicans are resurrecting an even worse version of the bill – so stay tuned for updates).

But March 24 was also the day that Anthem was attempting to bring their proposed merger with Cigna back to life, arguing their case before a three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals.  The insurers filed their appeal in February, after the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) won their lawsuit to block the merger.  Connecticut’s Attorney General, George Jepsen, and the Attorney Generals of 10 other states, joined with DOJ in fighting the merger.

On March 24, DOJ and the insurers squared off in court again.   Anthem argued that consumers and employers would benefit from the merger because Anthem’s increased bargaining power would lead to lower provider fees and therefore lower premiums.  DOJ attorneys disagreed, stating that there was no way to know if lower reimbursement rates would translate into actual cost savings.  They also pointed to the central issue that the merger would reduce competition.  Go here and here to read more about the arguments made by both sides and the questions the judges asked.

As we have written in previous blogs, there is little evidence to support that monopolies pass their savings on to consumers.  Instead, the opposite usually happens — prices go up.

Amicus Brief 

In preparation for the Court of Appeals case, several consumer organizations signed on to an amicus brief filed by anti-trust attorney David Balto, director of the Coalition to Protect Consumer Choice.  Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut was one of the organizations to sign on to the brief.  Other signers include Connecticut Citizen Action Group, California Reinvestment Coalition, Consumers Union and United States Public Interest Research Group.

The amicus, or “friend of the court” brief focused was written to support the DOJ efforts to stop the merger and focused on issues of concern to consumers.  As Balto stated, “…This merger is clearly anticompetitive and any claimed costs savings would not benefit consumers one iota.”

Connecticut’s Attorney General, George Jepsen, also continues to argue against the merger.

Investigation into Trump-Anthem Contacts

While the DOJ continued their vigorous opposition to the merger in open court, concerns were raised about what is going on behind the scenes, now that the Trump administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions are running the DOJ.

As reported by David Sirota of the International Business Times, Joseph Swedish, president of Anthem, spoke by phone with President Trump on March 14.  Anthem, which donated $100,000 to the Trump inaugural committee, did not comment on whether the merger was discussed.  Anthem’s headquarters is in Indiana, home state of Vice President Mike Pence.

Meanwhile, a former Anthem lobbyist is now being considered for the top anti-trust position in the DOJ.

A new nonprofit advocacy group, United to Protect Democracy, has called for the DOJ Inspector General to investigate whether there have been inappropriate contacts between the White House and DOJ regarding the merger.  The organization, founded by former Obama administration lawyers, wrote, “It would seriously undermine the rule of the law if the President or his political advisors were to direct or encourage the Department to alter course in an ongoing enforcement or litigation matter in order to benefit a political ally.”

Could the new administration be putting pressure on the DOJ to settle the case?  We should know soon, as a decision by the Court of Appeals is expected later this month.

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The “Exploding” Affordable Care Act? 

By Jill Zorn

hqdefault-e1490986662710.jpgWhen last we left Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal, it was a runaway train hurtling down the track.  Then, last Friday, March 24, House Speaker Ryan and President Trump said they were giving up and walking away from their (Un)American Health Care Act, a bill that would have taken health care away from 24 million people.

Paul Ryan declared the ACA was the “law of the land…for the foreseeable future” and pulled the bill off the floor of the House.  Donald Trump said he was ready to move on to other issues, like tax reform.

Grassroots activist groups which have sprung all over the country since the November election, had a lot to do with this victory.

On March 24, activists breathed a sigh of relief allowed themselves to celebrate and enjoyed a much-deserved weekend off.

But that sense of relief has been short-lived as it has become evident that the repeal train has not quite been derailed.

Just yesterday, the Senate voted, with Vice President Pence breaking the tie, to allow states to withhold Title X family planning funding from Planned Parenthood.

As this vote indicates, Republicans are far from done with taking health care away from people.  In fact, the day after the bill was pulled, Trump was gleefully tweeting that the ACA will “explode.”

Fact checkers disagree with this pronouncement.  The Congressional Budget Office found that the health care marketplaces are stable in most states.

Still, we are left wondering if Trump is making a misguided prediction about an impending ACA explosion, or a veiled threat to “light the fuse.”

The fact is, the ACA is complex and requires a lot of care and feeding.  The Obama administration did its best to keep the law functioning, even in the face of active opposition from Congress.

Divisions among Republicans meant they failed to pass the American Health Care Act, and may not be able to revive it.  But now that the Republicans have control of both Congress and the White House, there are still many things they could do to undermine the law.

The most immediate threat involves a law suit about the ACA’s cost sharing reductions.  These are extra financial subsidies paid directly to insurers that help reduce copays and deductibles for lower income people who receive health coverage through the marketplace.  The House filed a lawsuit against these payments last year and the case is now tied up in court.  The Obama administration fought the law suit, but what will the Trump administration do?

So far, the new administration has continued to fund the subsidies and Congress is not getting in the way.  But whether Congress will actually pass legislation to keep the subsidies secure into the future is still an open question.  You can read more about this issue here.

This blog post from Ron Pollack of Families USA, lists other possible threats to the ACA due to administrative action or inaction, including,

  • Cutting funding for enrollment outreach and marketing
  • Refusing to enforce the individual mandate

So, what will they do?  On Wednesday, Tom Price, Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services and a known opponent of the ACA, “offered few hints” about the administration’s intentions.  Yet under intense questioning from Connecticut Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, he made his feelings about the law quite plain, stating, “We believe that the current law has harmed many individuals.”

Clearly, we won a very real victory on March 24, when outright repeal was stopped.  But this is no time for advocates to kick back.  We have a long hard fight ahead of us to protect the care of millions of Americans.

But activists don’t only want to play defense. There are many ideas out there right now about how to repair the ACA and, even more exciting, move beyond it.  Future blogs will highlight some of those ideas.

Here are a few more articles about whether and how the Republicans could explode the ACA:

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Stuart Rabinowitz’s Health Care Story

Protect Our Care CT‘s Health Care Action Day, March 22, 2017.

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Sally Grossman’s Health Care Story

Protect Our Care CT‘s Health Care Action Day, March 22, 2017.

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Jonathan Miller’s Health Care Story

Protect Our Care CT’s Health Care Action Day, March 22, 2017.

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CT Rallies to Protect Our Care

By Lynne Ide

IMG_36991_01

Two #ProtectOurCareCT supporters

On a cold and blustery March day, 100 motivated activists and advocates showed up in Hartford to showcase all the good that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has done for the people of Connecticut.

The crowd urged our state’s elected officials to stand up and protect the care that so many of us count on. Their personal health care stories and passion for the good they have derived from the ACA, Medicaid, Medicare and women’s health programs was palpable in the halls of the Legislative Office Building.

The event, organized by the Protect Our Care CT Campaign, was held on the eve of the anniversary of President Obama signing the ACA into law seven years ago, on March 23, 2010.

It was also the day before House Speaker Paul Ryan hoped to lead the Congress in a vote to gut the ACA and replace it with a bad health care deal for millions of Americans.

A morning press conference featured stories told by five people that illustrated how the ACA has helped them face health care challenges, get the care they needed and lead productive, full lives.

All the Storytellers

Jonathan from Meriden told of how the coverage he had through his parents, and the Access Health CT plan he purchased at age 26, has helped him manage his Cystic Fibrosis.

Jazzmin from Bridgeport explained how grateful she was to be able to find coverage she could afford via Access Health CT and get the care she needed to save her leg after a terrible motorcycle accident.

Sally, a self-employed contractor from Windsor, showed up with her 3-week old baby, Sadie and shared how coverage via HUSKY A (Medicaid) helped her and her children get important care through two pregnancies.

Stuart from Bethlehem shared his story of being able to get insurance coverage that, previous to the ACA, would have been denied due to pre-existing condition. And how his life was saved by that coverage when he was diagnosed with cancer and needed a bone marrow transplant.

And we heard the story of Therese, age 47 from Torrington, who thanks to a combination of Medicare, Medicaid and ACA Community First Choice funding, has been able to live independently and work part-time in spite of Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a debilitating health condition.  Her story was told by her co-worker, Molly.

A lot is at stake for Connecticut if Congress votes to gut the ACA. Too many people do not understand that the changes being proposed will raise the cost of care for many in the private health insurance market, eliminate Medicaid/HUSKY coverage for some vulnerable members of our community, and hurt the Medicare program – as well as put a big hole in our state budget.

Check out these resources to find out more about what the impact in Connecticut will be:

What’s at Stake for CT in the Proposed Health Care Bill?

Analysis: GOP Obamacare replacement could cost CT $89M to $539M

American Health Care Act: Who gains and loses in Connecticut

What the GOP Obamacare replacement bill means for you and CT

And – sign up at protectourcarect.org to stay informed and get active.

PROTECT OUR CARE CT FINAL

 

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