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This Week in Health Care Reform - February 13th, 2015

Stakeholders urge Congress to protect Medicare Advantage – you can, too; efforts ramp up ahead of open enrollment’s final weekend; doctors add their voices to the debate surrounding skyrocketing drug costs; the House votes again to repeal the health care law; and, the potential fallout from the Supreme Court tax subsidy case continues to make waves.


Week in Review

Protecting Medicare Advantage: Next week, it is expected that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will release its annual proposal laying out changes to the underlying structure governing how the popular Medicare Advantage program is paid and administered.  And, as in years past, stakeholders across the health care spectrum are already rallying around the program and the nearly 16 million seniors and persons with disabilities that depend on its coordinated model of care.  Most recently, more than 300 groups representing physicians signed a letter to Congress asking them to protect Medicare Advantage.  For their part, a bipartisan letter has also been prepared by Sens. Charles Schumer (D-New York) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho).  Addressed to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner, the letter urges her to preserve Medicare Advantage and protect its beneficiaries from further harmful cuts.  The bipartisan letter is currently being circulated amongst the Senate, seeking as many signatures as possible.  We need you to reach out to your Senators and ask them to add their names to the letter and show their support for Medicare Advantage and the millions of Americans that depend on this critical program.  Learn more about these efforts and what you can do to help by visiting the Coalition for Medicare Choices and add your voice to the cause. 

Final Days of Enrollment:
Barring any last-minute extensions, open enrollment on the insurance exchange marketplace is scheduled to close this Sunday, February 15th.  Predictably, that’s resulted in a significant uptick in the traffic seen on the government’s website.  In fact, traffic to the site was up 58 percent on Wednesday morning compared to the same time last week.  Heading into the final stretch, Administration officials had increased their workforce by 40 percent to help people sign-up for coverage in the final week of the open enrollment period.  Of greater importance, the rate at which individuals are signing up has also increased; by last week, nine days before the deadline, 7.7 million people had secured coverage on the website.

ACP Enters the Fray: Another doctors group made headlines recently by joining the fight against the ‘skyrocketing’ price of drugs.  It was announced earlier this month that the American College of Physicians (ACP), and the 140,000 doctors it represents, was joining the Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing (CSRxP).  The coalition, sponsored by the National Coalition on Health Care, was established last year in response to the escalating price of drugs, which many blame for placing in further jeopardy the already-strained finances of our health care system.

Repeal Vote:
Last week, the House of Representatives voted on the latest measure aimed at, both, repealing and, eventually, replacing the health care law.  Despite the White House’s veto threat, the measure passed, by a vote of 239-186.  However, what sets this latest effort apart is that, for the first time, three Republicans voted against repeal.  The legislation now moves to the Senate where opponents say it lacks enough votes to pass.

SCOTUS Fallout:
With the Supreme Court expected to hear the arguments in the King v. Burwell case next month, experts continue to weigh in on what a ruling striking down the subsidies could mean.  While what exactly such a decision would do to the health care law is up for debate, new polling suggests that many are counting on lawmakers stepping in with legislative fixes.  As the Administration grapples with its options, conservatives are clamoring to hear what contingency plan, if any, exists.  But, experts are quick to point out, that the Supreme Court ruling isn’t without political peril for Republicans, either.

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We encourage you to stay involved as implementation efforts surrounding health care reform progress.  Visit the Health Action Network and be sure to let us know what's on your mind.


Looking Ahead

It’s estimated that the health care law could affect up to 29 percent of U.S. taxpayers, with as many as 6 million Americans facing penalties for failing to carry coverage last year.  Meanwhile, the IRS offered a bit of a relief last month to taxpayers who received too much of a subsidy last year. 

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