Health Care Highs and Lows
During the last few weeks we’ve witnessed a number of significant developments on the healthcare front. Here are a few key highlights:
Yesterday, the Administration announced that 3.3 million Americans have signed up for health insurance on the online Marketplace since the start of open enrollment in October. 1.1 million of those individuals signed up during January, the first month in which enrollment beat government projections. The overall numbers are still slightly lower than the initial goal, due to the low numbers during October and November, when the federal website faced well-publicized technical difficulties.
A trio of conservative senators unveiled the outline of an alternative to the Affordable Care Act. Like the ACA, the Burr-Coburn-Hatch plan would attempt to increase healthcare coverage while reining in costs. But while the two plans have some similarities, there are also some key differences. The newly introduced plan would eliminate the Medicaid expansion, reduce the tax credits for many working and middle-class Americans, and eliminate the individual and employer mandates and the health insurance marketplaces. There would also be no mandatory benefits all plans needed to cover. The prohibition on lifetime coverage limits would be maintained, but the ban on denying coverage or charging more to those with preexisting conditions would be weakened. Since the plan is still only in outline form it is difficult to fully evaluate, but given our focus on covering as many Americans as possible with comprehensive coverage, it seems that this alternative would not be as inclusive or far-reaching as the Affordable Care Act.
Employer Mandate Delayed—Again
The Administration has further delayed the so-called employer mandate. Now, companies with 100 or more employees will only be required to offer minimum coverage to 70% of their workers by 2015, and companies with 50-99 employees will not have to offer minimum coverage until 2016. This employer mandate for medium and large employers was originally supposed to take full effect in January. Americans whose employers do not offer affordable coverage are therefore now eligible for tax credits and subsidies on the Marketplace.
Last week, members of Congress unveiled a rare bipartisan deal that would restructure Medicare’s payment system for doctors. The deal would repeal the so-called “doc fix,” the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula that determined doctor payments and required modifications each year due to flaws in the formula. The deal attempts to transition Medicare payments to reward physicians for quality of care, not quantity, as the current formula does.
Jewish Community Day of Action
On Tuesday, February 18th, the RAC and other organizations will participate in the Jewish Community Day of Action for Health Care Coverage. The goal of the day, in which dozens of Jewish groups across the country are participating, is to educate the Jewish community and the public at large about the importance of getting covered before the open enrollment period closes at the end of March. Stay tuned for more information about the Reform Movement’s participation in this exciting opportunity!