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This Week in Health Care Reform - March 17th, 2017

House Republicans advance their health care law replacement; a new analysis identifies drug costs as the single largest component of consumers’ premium dollar; and, despite gains, uncertainty remains in health IT policy.

Week in Review

AHCA: Early last week House Republicans unveiled legislation aiming to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Titled the American Health Care Act (AHCA), the bill would eventually eliminate many of the taxes used to fund the current health care law, while gradually phasing out other provisions of the ACA.  Reaction was swift, matched only by how quickly the legislation made it out of committee, as both the House Energy & Commerce and Ways & Means Committees held marathon markups of the bill last week, before sending it to the Budget Committee, where it passed yesterday.  It now heads to the Rules Committee, which will determine the rules for consideration and may include the opportunity to offer and vote on amendments.  However, despite clearing the necessary legislative hurdles, Republican leaders acknowledged that certain changes would need to be made to the bill in order for it to pass the House.  With public opinion split over the GOP’s latest proposal, lawmakers now face the difficult task of decoupling the partisan rhetoric from their efforts to unwind the pieces of the current law that continue to be problematic.  Regardless of the politics surrounding next steps, stakeholders continue to urge policymakers to focus their attention on the pressing market stabilization piece of the health care reform debate.

Rx Spend: With so much of the conversation surrounding the future of health care in this country framed in terms of dollars spent, there’s value in taking a closer look at exactly how our resources are currently being allocated.  One stakeholder did exactly that, examining where a consumer’s health care dollar actually goes.  Released by the health insurance industry’s trade association, AHIP, their analysis breaks down how the premiums collected by insurers are ultimately spent.  Unsurprisingly, the single largest component of the average health care dollar goes to covering the rising costs of prescription drugs (22.1 percent).  As the country continues to grapple with how best to utilize our health care resources, AHIP’s analysis only serves to underscore the urgent need to address what has become an unsustainable cost driver in health care spending.

Health IT Policy:
Despite all the advances brought to market in the health care technology space, uncertainty abounds as practitioners look to navigate uncharted legislative and regulatory waters.  At least, that was the prevailing sense at a recent gathering of the sector’s stakeholders last month.  Among the issues that remain top of mind for health care experts: Interoperability, precision medicine, and the migration of data to the cloud.  In seeking to find a navigable path forward, experts were quick to offer up what they would like to see in a national health IT agenda.      

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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

Earlier this week, we asked our Health Action Network members to add their energies to the ongoing effort to protect Medicare Advantage and its millions of beneficiaries from proposed cuts to the program.  And, hundreds of you have already responded.  As covered previously, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently proposed modifications to the program’s underlying funding structure, which would result in a decrease to plan payments, threatening to further unravel the comprehensive blanket of care currently covering 18 million American seniors and persons with disabilities.  CMS is expected to finalize its proposed changes to this important program by April 3rd, so the clock is running out for stakeholders to contact their lawmakers and urge them to tell CMS to protect Medicare Advantage and its millions of vulnerable enrollees from further harm. 


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