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ACA Round Up - February 17, 2017

By Shalini Pammal
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TAKE ACTION

  • Host a house meeting during the Congressional recess week. Host a meeting to make a plan to ensure sure your members of Congress are hearing from doctors, medical students, and community members about the real impact of the ACA. In these challenging times, the power we build locally is more important than ever before. Meeting resources below:
  • Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats are hosting nationwide rallies in defense of the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid and Medicare, during the recess period. Contact your Representative to find out if there is an event in your area. Then join a rally in your white coats and send photos and a brief description to DFAHQ@drsforamerica.org

  • Please join us for the 2017 Doctors for America National Leadership Conference to be held in Tampa, Florida on May 6-7thA leadership training will be offered for a limited number of members on Friday, May 5th. Mark your calendars. Registration will be opening soon.

 

WEEK-AT-A-GLANCE

Yesterday, House Republican leaders held a meeting to enumerate their plans to repeal-and-replace the Affordable Care Act. This meeting came as leaders attempt to unite sharply divided GOP members around a single replacement plan, and quell rising public fears around repeal without a viable alternative. The newly released plan incorporates tax credits, an expansion of health savings accounts, funding for high risk pools and a reduction in Medicaid funding to pre-expansion levels. The plan largely reflects the 'Better Way' proposal that Speaker Paul Ryan released last summer; but, does not include changes to Medicare, which President Donald Trump has stated he will not support converting into a voucher program. This plan follows another House Freedom Caucus proposal, introduced on Wednesday by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and Representative Mark Meadows (R-NC), reinforcing GOP discordance on key issues. House Freedom Caucus leaders also demanded that congressional Republicans re-pass the 2015 budget reconciliation bill to vote to repeal most of the Affordable Care Act. The bill was previously passed and vetoed by former President Barack Obama.

Concurrently, there are efforts to continue moving forward with current ACA challenges. Following Trump's executive order on health care, the IRS has planned to ease enforcement of the individual mandate, an Obamacare provision which requires people to have insurance coverage or risk fines. This change is accompanied by new reforms proposed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to stabilize the individual and group health insurance markets for 2018. Constricting the annual enrollment period, adjusting minimum coverage standards and deferring review of provider network adequacy to the states are among several policy and operational changes detailed in the proposed regulations. The rule has drawn mixed reviews from industry groups and experts.

Despite actions intended to stabilize the markets, health insurance players are still hesitant to fully participate in the Obamacare exchanges. Humana has also announced that it will withdraw from the federal marketplaces in 2018. This will affect approximately 150,000 consumers in 11 states where Humana is currently selling Obamacare plans. Aetna made a similar decision in early February, indicating that insurers need more clarity on the road ahead.

And just as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services proposed these reforms, Seema Verma faced ethical questions regarding conflicts of interest during her Senate Finance Committee hearing to oversee the agency. It is expected that Verma will be confirmed on a party line vote, much like other Trump administration nominees. Deviating from other contentious nominations though, David Shulkin was swiftly and unanimously confirmed as Veterans' Affairs Secretary. He has vowed to increase accountability, dramatically improve access and expand care options, and assuaged fears that the VA system would be privatized, stating in his testimony: "The Department of Veterans Affairs will not be privatized under my watch." Meanwhile, Democratic leadership has called for nationwide rallies against Obamacare repeal, on February 25th. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) issued a letter encouraging Democratic senators to lead rallies in their states at the end of the February congressional recess week. 

Lastly, the biopharmaceutical industry is pushing back on a Trump proposal to deregulate the Food & Drug Administration. The industry is already under fire for high prices, including Marathon Pharmaceuticals LLC which recently 'paused' the launch of its $89,000-a-year musculary dystrophy drug. Moreover, pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms cite that a loose approval process limits industry ability to prove the value of more expensive medicines, especially as payers are increasingly seeking evidence of value and improved outcomes. 

 

MEMBERS IN ACTION

Maryland Meetings 

Justin Lowenthal MD/PhD student shares that DFA MD and Hopkins University held a chapter meeting to discuss recent developments around the ACA.

The Hopkins Chapter of Doctors for America also put on an interprofessional phone banking event with medical, nursing, public health students, and residents. The students called senators urging them to protect the ACA. The event was jointly organized by DFA and #ProtectOurPatients.

North Carolina March

Dr. Seanta Clark attended the HKonJ march in Raleigh, NC. Approximately 100,000 people came together for the march which theme was "Forward Together, Not One Step Back."

Dr. Howard Eisenson also stood alongside a white coat brigade” of  professionals from across for the march on Raleigh. The event drew over 100 white coats including many medical students.

 

Ohio #ProtectOurPatients Forum 

Gloria Tavera, an MD/PhD student from CWRU, participated in a #ProtectOurPatients health justice community forum where a team of 60 people formed to take on health care justice in Northeast Ohio. More photos from the event are available here.

Pennsylvania House Meeting 

Five Pittsburgh-area physicians Drs. Sharon Altman, Jessica Gannon, Sarah Larkin, Jason Rosenstock and Holly Stewart met February 11th for a health care advocacy and strategy session, inspired by Doctors for America.  The team provide mutual support and developed ways to move forward with action, such as writing letters to the editor, talking to our patients about the current situation, donating to key causes/organizations, and contacting our elected representatives.  They plan to involve colleagues and track progress over time, staying in touch as we move forward.

Texas Physician Meeting 

Dr. Laeeq Khan hosted a meeting with five Houston area physicians and medical students on Sunday Feb 12 to discuss efforts to repeal the health law.  

Washington Meeting 

Dr. Lisa Plymate joined with doctors and medical students for a meeting of about 20 people, including University of Washington medical students, in Seattle.

Tell us about what you are up to! We want to hear about your outreach -- both big and small -- so we can report it in this update each week. We also love to include photos of your activities so snap a picture of yourself in action. Email your updates and photos to DFAHQ@drsforamerica.org
 

KEY ARTICLES

CMS issues proposed rules for 2018 marketplace plans

Kaiser Family Foundation: Tool to compare proposals to replace the Affordable Care Act

Modern Healthcare: Why high-risk pools won't crack the pre-existing condition dilemma

NPR Health News: Republican health care proposal would cover fewer low-income families

Vox: Congress is repealing a rule that makes it harder for people with mental illness to buy a gun

New York Times: Angry Town Hall Meetings on Health Care Law, and few Answers

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