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This Week in Health Care Reform - January 27th, 2017

Congressional Republicans map out their legislative agenda; meanwhile, hearings get scheduled around repealing the health care law, even as members offer up options; the pharmaceutical industry launches an expensive new public relations campaign; and, a new survey highlights growing consumer comfort with telehealth.

Week in Review

GOP Retreat: Republicans convened in Philadelphia this week, mapping out what some would characterize as an aggressive agenda.  Amongst the legislative priorities: Repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act; rolling back regulations; funding the border wall; rewriting the tax code; and, advancing an infrastructure package – all while avoiding a debt default, and, more than a little ambitiously, all before the August recess.  With Republicans controlling both the House and the Senate, and with assurances of the White House’s willingness to use its bully pulpit to corral support and blunt opposition, opponents find themselves on the defensive – which isn’t to say that Democrats are standing idly by.

Repeal: It’s no accident that repeal of the Affordable Care Act sits atop Congressional Republicans’ list of legislative priorities.  Having made elimination of the health care law a central, organizing theme of their campaign rhetoric for years, the GOP now finds itself in position to deliver on that promise.  Already, lawmakers have taken the first steps towards overturning the law.  Now, key House committees have lined up a series of policy hearings, integral to those efforts.  In a somewhat surprising move, though, several Republican senators offered up a partial replacement proposal earlier this week which would allow states the option to continue operating under the law.  Regardless of what steps they take next, stakeholders are urging lawmakers to exercise caution and to keep the focus on value.
PhRMA Campaign:
Having spent the past few years coming under increasing fire, the pharmaceutical industry has decided to push back.  This week, the drug industry’s largest trade association, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), launched an expansive multiyear campaign in its ongoing efforts to polish its tarnished reputation.  Promising to spend “tens of millions” of dollars each year, the GOBOLDLY PR campaign will include TV, print, and radio advertising targeting the sector’s most important stakeholders.  Many, like the Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing (CSRxP), view the effort as merely distracting attention from the larger problem needing to be addressed, namely, the affordability of prescription drugs.  In response to PhRMA’s new campaign, CSRxP Executive Director, John Rother, pointed out that this latest tactic is nothing new, as the drug industry “spends more on advertising than they do on actual research." 
Telehealth Survey:
Consumers continue to express a growing level of comfort with telehealth, according to a new survey.  Released by American Well, a telehealth company partnering with dozens of health systems across the country, about one-in-five respondents said that they would switch their primary care provider (PCP) if another PCP in their area offered telehealth visits.  Further, according to their results, 50 million consumers today would switch providers to one that offers telehealth.  And, the majority of those polled would be willing to have an online telehealth visit to help manage a chronic condition.      

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Looking Ahead

Every year around this time, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) proposes changes to the underlying funding structure of the popular Medicare Advantage program.  With more than 18 million seniors and persons with disabilities enrolled (and counting), beneficiaries, their families, and other stakeholders, continue to stand up in support of Medicare Advantage.  CMS is expected to make its proposed changes next week.  Learn more and keep an eye on future newsletters to see how you can help protect this critical program from further, damaging cuts.

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