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HEALTH ACTION NETWORK - ADVOCATES FOR BETTER HEALTH CARE SOLUTIONS

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This Week in Health Care Reform: August 11th, 2017

Bipartisan voices map out a path forward for health care reform; a new app is launched connecting veterans to their care; stakeholders push to broaden telehealth’s reach; and, the return of an unpopular tax threatens to add billions to Americans’ premiums.

Week in Review

Bipartisan Recommendations: With lawmakers back in their states and districts until after Labor Day, efforts continue apace to find workable health care reform solutions.  As previously noted, the Senate HELP Committee announced plans to hold hearings once members return focused on stabilizing the individual market.  And, late last week, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) announced that his panel would also be holding a similarly-focused hearing of its own next month.  While some find encouragement in this return to normal order, others worry that it might be too late.  Nevertheless, a growing chorus of bipartisan voices is urging lawmakers to take whatever steps are necessary to stabilize the individual exchange market, in particular, continuing to fund the cost-sharing reduction (CSR) subsidies that millions of Americans depend on.

VA Telehealth App: Already operating one of the country’s largest telehealth programs, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently announced that it would be drastically expanding its program via the launch of a new tool called VA Video Connect.  Last year, some 700,000 veterans received medical care and advice through their computers and mobile devices – those numbers are expected to increase dramatically with VA Video Connect expanding to every VA hospital in the country.  By eliminating the regulations that had previously stood in the way of this expansion, the VA says it is “removing geography as a barrier” and increasing its ability to deliver “anywhere to anywhere” health care.

Telehealth White Space:
In its most recent Broadband Progress Report, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) estimated that approximately 34 million Americans are without access to broadband internet access – and, of those, about 24 million live in rural areas.  A bipartisan group of lawmakers is looking to change that, urging the FCC to open up unused television band spectrum – known as “TV white space” – to allow for the broadcasting of high-speed internet to underserved parts of the country.  Experts argue that doing so allows these communities to tap into the benefits that can only be achieved through broadband access, not the least of which accrues from the utilization of advances in the telehealth space.

HIT Looming:
A new study from health management consulting firm Oliver Wyman outlines the impact that the return next year of the health insurance tax (HIT) would have on millions of American consumers.  According to their analysis, the reinstitution of the HIT will result in a $14.3 billion tax hike in 2018.  However, by extending relief into next year, Congress could help small business workers and their families see lower premiums and other cost-savings of $500 on average in 2018.      

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Spotlight

A recent letter-to-the-editor looks to cut through the partisan rhetoric and highlight the critical role that CSRs play in protecting consumers’ access to affordable coverage.
                                            
                                            

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