UPDATE: ACA and the Congressional Health Care Debate - Bipartisan Bill Proposal
On October 19, 2017, Senators Alexander and Murray, leaders of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, introduced a bipartisan bill to stabilize the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Marketplace. This bill, the Bipartisan Health Care Stabilization Act of 2017, has many cosponsors from each party. The proposal would extend cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments, and includes other mechanisms of stabilization. CSRs help low income individuals and families (who make up to 250% of the federal poverty line) cover out-of-pocket health care costs like deductibles and copays for plans offered in the ACA Marketplace. The proposal would also preserve and support key protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions.
The Epilepsy Foundation, as part of the I Am Essential coalition, has previously applauded the HELP committee's bipartisan efforts, which included summer hearings with a variety of stakeholders like Governors and Insurance Commissioners. We look forward to engaging in the next steps of this process with the broader patient community - which will include a thorough and ongoing review of this proposal's impact on patients and consumers as the bill moves through regular order.
The Alexander-Murray deal signals an encouraging move away from partisan proposals to "repeal and replace" the ACA that also included reforms to Medicaid - on which more than a third of people living with epilepsy rely on for their care.
We joined a statement with many others in the patient community in support of the agreement. Read the statement below.
HELP Stabilization Statement (Oct 19, 2017)
Administration Issued Executive Order on ACA Reform
On October 12, 2017, President Trump issued an executive order that directs agencies to make changes to current implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Federal agencies will need to issue rules in order to effectuate this order. This executive order would encourage association health plans to enter the insurance market and change the rules governing the length and renewability of short-term catastrophic health insurance plans. The impact that these changes could have on people with pre-existing conditions like epilepsy is significant because these new types of plans would not be required to cover the Essential Health Benefits. Allowing some plans to not cover these comprehensive benefits would mean that cost for plans that do will skyrocket - and these are the plans that those with series health needs rely on for meaningful coverage.
The Epilepsy Foundation joined a statement with many others in the patient community in opposition to this executive order. Read the statement below.
Executive Order Statement (Oct 14 2017)
Administration Announced Discontinuation of CSR Payments
On October 12, 2017, President Trump announced that the administration would no longer continue the cost sharing reduction (CSR) payments, which are part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). These payments help individuals and families up to 250% of the federal poverty line cover out-of-pocket health care costs like deductibles and copayments.
The Epilepsy Foundation joined a statement with many others in the patient community expressing concern for this decision and urging Congress to fund this program. Read the statement below.
CSR Payments Statement (Oct 13, 2017)
Senate Will Not Vote on Latest Repeal and Replace Proposal
On September 26, 2017, Senate leadership and the authors of the latest proposal to "repeal and replace" the ACA, Sens. Graham and Cassidy, held a press conference to announce that they would not be holding a vote on the Senate floor on the proposal this week prior to the expiration of a special procedural mechanism that would have allowed the bill to pass with only 50 votes.
They also announced that they hope to continue discussions to eventually develop a health care reform proposal with more support.
Senate Again Considering Dangerous Health Care Bill
On September 13, 2017, Senator Graham introduced a new ACA "repeal and replace" proposal as an amendment to the House-passed American Health Care Act, which would threaten health insurance coverage for millions of Americans - including many with epilepsy. This bill, referred to widely as Graham-Cassidy, is similar to other proposals defeated this summer. It would drastically cut the entire Medicaid program and could allow some insurance plans to drop coverage for basic services, including emergency care, prescription medications, and chronic disease treatment.
On Monday, September 25, the Senate Committee on Finance held a hearing on this proposal.
Senate Votes Down Bill to Unravel ACA
On July 28, 2017, the Senate ended debate and voted on the Health Care Freedom Act, a bill that would have left millions without health coverage and further destabilized access to health care for many Americans. This bill was defeated and now the health care debate can move on as a bipartisan effort to help all Americans including those with epilepsy and chronic conditions.
Senate Debating ACA Repeal Proposals
On July 25, 2017, the U.S. Senate voted in favor of a motion to proceed and began debate on the Senate floor on efforts to "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Discussions continue on the Senate floor on July 26 as senators work to identify a proposal that may garner the necessary votes (50) for final passage of a bill in the Senate. If the Senate passes a bill, it would then go to the House for a vote before heading to the President, or it could go to conference where any differences from the House-passed American Health Care Act (passed on May 4, 2017) would be resolved.
The Epilepsy Foundation is monitoring the floor debate closely and has been expressing opposition to any proposal that would be harmful to people living with epilepsy, especially those that would erode patient protections created by the ACA and cut Medicaid funding - a program that provides health care for more than one third of people living with epilepsy. The Epilepsy Foundation has communicated consistently with Congress to highlight issues with bills that are currently being debated.
CMS Announces Streamlined Direct Enrollment Process for Consumers Seeking Exchange Coverage
On May 17, 2017, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a simplified direct enrollment process for consumers signing up for individual market coverage through health care exchanges that use HealthCare.gov. Consumers applying for individual coverage through direct enrollment partners will now be able to complete their application using only one website, enabling easier access to healthcare comparison shopping. In the past, consumers who signed up for health care coverage using a third-party website were completed to HealthCare.gov to complete their application.
Learn more about this new direct enrollment process here.
CMS Announces Checklist for State Innovation Waiver Applications
Section 1332 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) allows states to apply for State Innovation Waivers to pursue innovative strategies for providing high-quality, affordable health coverage to their residents. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has produced a checklist to help states pursuing State Innovation Waivers as they develop and complete the required elements of the application, with specific requirments related to high-risk pools and state reinsurance.
Learn more about the CMS State Innovation Waiver Checklist here.
House of Representatives Votes to Approve AHCA
On May 4, 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on and passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which would repeal critical patient protections created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and radically restructure the way the federal government supports states’ Medicaid programs. The AHCA would cut Medicaid funding by $840 billion over the next ten years by instituting per-capita caps on federal support to the states for the program; and allow states to eliminate Essential Health Benefits requirements for plans offered in the ACA Marketplaces, which ensure plans cover prescription drugs, hospitalization, and emergency services, among other basic benefits.
Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) Reacts to House Passage of AHCA
The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), the country’s largest coalition of national disability groups, is gravely concerned about the House of Representative’s passage of the American Health Care Act. The AHCA will harm tens of millions in the United States, but especially people with disabilities who will face coverage loss, higher costs, and fewer options. Read the full statement below.
CCD Statement on AHCA (May 4, 2017)
Epilepsy Foundation Joins Coalition Letter Urging Congress to Oppose AHCA Because of Cuts to Medicaid
On March 16, 2017, the Epilepsy Foundation joined members of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) and other national organizations in a letter to Congress expressing serious concerns with the AHCA. The letter urged members to oppose the legislation as currently drafted because of signifant restructuring and cuts to the Medicaid program, which provides lifesaving medications and health care services for more than a third of people living with epilepsy, including children from low-income families and/or with severe forms of epilepsy, as well as children and adults living with disabilities. Read the letter below.
CCD Coalition Letter on AHCA (March 16, 2017)
Epilepsy Foundation Joins Coalition Letter Urging Congress to Protect Medicaid
On March 3, 2017, the Epilepsy Foundation joined 100 national organizations representing older Americans and people with disabilities in a letter to Congressional leadership urging Congress not to make radical structural changes to Medicaid through block grants or per capita caps. These kind of changes would lead to fewer services and higher health care costs for people with epilepsy, putting their care at risk. Read our letter below.
Coalition Letter to Congressional Leadership on Protecting Medicaid (March 3, 2017)
Epilepsy Foundation Joins 200 Patient Advocacy Groups in Letter to HHS Secretary Price
The Epilepsy Foundation, as a leader of the I Am Essential coalition, joined 200 patient groups, including all Epilepsy Foundation chapters and affiliates across the country, in sending a February 10, 2017 letter to recently confirmed Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Tom Price, urging him to maintain existing patient protections enacted in the Affordable Care Act. It is especially important to advocate for patient protections like the Essential Health Benefits and patient access to prescription drugs their providers prescribe as Congress and the Administration consider changes to current healthcare laws and regulations.
IAE Letter to HHS Secretary Dr. Tom Price (Feb. 10, 2017)
Read the I Am Essential press release on the February 10 letter here.
Epilepsy Foundation Sends Letter to President-elect and Congressional Leadership Opposing Current ACA Repeal Efforts
On January 11, 2017, the Epilepsy Foundation sent a letter to President-elect Trump and Congressional leadership, highlighting the provisions in the Affordable Care Act that have been important to the epilepsy community. Read our letter at the link below.
Epilepsy Foundation Letter to President-elect Trump and Congress on the Affordable Care Act (Jan. 11, 2017)