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This Week in Health Care Reform - February 7th, 2014

New polling tells the same story of how Americans feel about the Affordable Care Act; a diverse group of organizations send letters to CMS warning of the risks posed by further cuts to Medicare Advantage; meanwhile, a consortium of business allies makes a case of its own against the health insurance tax; and, a new analysis from CBO only serves to highlight why the conservative attacks on the health care law’s risk mitigation programs are misguided.


Health Care Reform

Thaw Poll: Now that Americans have had a chance to take the health care law out for a test drive, polls depicting just what they think of the Affordable Care Act should start to come into clearer focus.  If that’s the case, then there’s something for everyone in the latest poll numbers coming from Gallup.  According to their results, the majority of Americans still disapprove of the law, by a 51 percent to 41 percent margin.  However, those numbers represent a slight uptick from the previous poll, in which 54 percent of respondents expressed their disapproval compared to the 38 percent who felt the opposite. 

Medicare Advantage Letters: With anticipation building ahead of the next rate notice outlining changes to Medicare Advantage payment rates, supporters of the popular program are already mounting a campaign to protect it from further cuts.  As has been highlighted here these past few weeks, the Coalition for Medicare Choices (CMC) has been at the vanguard, building momentum and adding to its base of supporters, in advance of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) releasing its proposed changes at the end of this month.  With more than 1.5 million supporters swelling its ranks, the Coalition for Medicare Choices has been leading the efforts to ensure Medicare Advantage is able to continue to provide the coordinated care that millions of seniors and persons with disabilities have come to depend on.  But, they’re not alone.  This past week, a troika of influential groups each sent letters of their own to CMS on behalf of the vulnerable program.  Earlier last week, the Care Continuum Alliance, a broad range of stakeholders dedicated to enhancing the health of populations, sent a letter to CMS Administrator, Marilyn Tavenner, seeking her commitment to keep Medicare Advantage payment rates level in 2015.  Also last week, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the largest manufacturing association in the United States, sent a letter of its own to CMS expressing its concerns over what additional rate cuts to Medicare Advantage would mean for the program, particularly, as it relates to employers.  Finally, last Friday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce weighed in, sending a letter to the agency on behalf of its member companies, who, they went on to say, are staunchly committed to preserving the viability and continuity of trusted care offered to their retirees through Medicare Advantage plans.  Why not add your voice to the growing chorus of supporters speaking up on behalf of Medicare Advantage?  Find out how.

Business Coalition Targets HIT: As Washington once again turns its attention to the debt ceiling, a growing coalition of business groups offers up one way lawmakers can help Americans improve their own financial footing.  Last week, the Affordable Coverage Project, a coalition of national, state, and local business associations organized to build support for repealing the newly implemented health insurance tax (HIT), urged Congress to delay that tax, citing independent research that shows in doing so, small employers would save more than $6800 per family policy over the next decade.  Under a recently introduced bill by Reps. Charles Boustany (R-Louisiana) and Ami Bera (D-California), the HIT would be delayed by two years.  A similar bipartisan bill to repeal the tax outright was previously introduced and boasts 226 cosponsors.  The two-year delay represents the first necessary step towards full repeal of the harmful new tax, as premiums from the previous year are used to calculate the cost of coverage for the current one.  Essentially, the delay would result in small businesses and families taking home more each paycheck.

Risk Analysis: The risk mitigation programs baked into the Affordable Care Act have found themselves the target of growing conservative invective these past few weeks.  However, the newest report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) should talk more than a few conservatives off the legislative ledge.  Even as attacks on the supposed insurer ‘bailout’ gained traction on the right, supporters of the unfairly characterized programs defended them, standing firm in their resolve to ensure that the risk adjustment, reinsurance, and risk corridor provisions of the health care law remained intact and, thus, allowed to do what they were engineered to do, namely, promote competition between insurers on the basis of value and quality, while stabilizing the insurance market in the early years of implementation.  While Republicans in the House continue mulling their options – including tying debt limit approval to the elimination of the risk corridor – this week’s CBO report estimates that those same risk corridors will, in fact, save taxpayers $8 billion when all’s said and done.  And, if that’s not enough, further analysis goes on to show that eliminating the provision would also raise premiums on the exchanges. 

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