U.S. House Energy & Commerce Health Subcommittee Debates Whether to Improve or Replace the ACA
May 14, 2016 09:11 AM
On Wednesday, May 11, the U.S. House of Representative Energy & Commerce Health Subcommittee, led by Chairman Joseph Pitts (R-PA), held a hearing to discuss potential changes to the health care system, with the goal of reducing costs and improving access and quality. The hearing followed the recent news that House Speak Paul Ryan (R-WI) has announced the creation of the House Task Force on Health Care Reform, with the mission of writing legislation to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) (see previous NAHC Report article here). Along the same lines, in announcing this week’s hearing, Republicans premised the discussion on the argument that President Obama’s signature legislative achievement “is not working,” as full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI-6) put it.
While the hearing included participation from Representatives on both sides of the party aisle, the Democrats in attendance rejected the notion that the ACA has been a failure and instead called for bipartisan improvements to the law. “This hearing has the potential to be a starting point for a real discussion on bipartisan improvements that will strengthen the systems already in place and bring us even closer to high quality universal coverage,” said full committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ). “However, I also recognize that this hearing has the potential to be a continuation of a six year Republican assault against the ACA and the millions of Americans who benefit from it. The ACA’s marketplaces put power back into the hands of consumers, gave everyone the right to buy insurance, and forced insurers to compete based on price and value. We cannot return to a time when insurers competed to find the healthiest, least expensive consumers and left millions of Americans to fend for themselves.”
Despite Democrats’ calls for a bipartisan approach, the Republican task force announced by Speaker Ryan intends to develop proposed legislation to replace the ACA in the coming weeks. While the potential legislation is unlikely to become law this session of Congress, the task force wants to have the proposal on-hand in case a Republican wins the presidency.
Chairman Upton, a member of the task force, discussed some of the possible approaches in the forthcoming proposal. “Protecting our most vulnerable patients with pre-existing condition safeguards is just as much about helping them keep health coverage as it is about creating an environment for them to get health coverage. Continued enrollment can lead to lower costs and stable markets, which gives consumers a pathway to choose more innovative options,” he said. “Today, we will talk about ways to achieve this through market reforms instead of government mandates, like encouraging states to lower costs through premium reduction programs. Options, like advanced high risk pools, can also open new access points to the market while helping keep patient costs down.”
Chairman Upton has said that the task force intends to release its plan to replace to the ACA in the next couple weeks. Stay tuned to NAHC Report for additional updates regarding the proposal.