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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Last night (March 20), House Republicans introduced amendments to their health care reform legislation the American Health Care Act. The Cancer Support Community (CSC) released a blog regarding the first version of the AHCA.

The “manager’s amendments” to the AHCA were introduced in response to concerns by some Members of Congress that the AHCA, as originally written, would not go far enough to address some of the perceived shortcomings of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The details of these amendments are below. CSC remains concerned about the potential impact of the AHCA on cancer patients and their loved ones as our priorities include:

  • Access: Ensuring that individuals with cancer have access to comprehensive, high-quality, timely health care services
  • Affordability: Ensuring that individuals with cancer can afford health insurance coverage and prescription medications and are not be discriminated against through higher premiums or exorbitant out-of-pocket costs.
  • Equity: Ensuring that individuals with cancer are not limited by pre-existing conditions or lifetime caps on care

For more information, check out CSC’s Health Care Principles for Individuals Impacted by Cancer.

The most recent updates to the AHCA include:

  • Premium Relief: The amendment would allow individuals to deduct more health care expenses from their income taxes. Under current law Americans can deduct from their taxes medical expenses that exceed 10 percent of their income. The amendment would change that to 5.8 percent of income. Further, approximately $85 billion has been set aside for tax credits to help Americans between 50 and 64 offset premium increases that they would likely experience. It is unclear, however, if these changes would provide significant help to individuals, particularly older Americans, afford premiums which are expected to increase dramatically.
  • Medicaid Changes: The AHCA included a “freeze” to the Medicaid expansion that was implemented by the ACA. These amendments would prevent states that have not yet expanded Medicaid to do so. It would stop allowing states to cover adults with incomes over 133 percent of the federal poverty level after this year. It would allow states to impose work requirements for some Medicaid beneficiaries and will allow states to receive a lump-sum block grant rather than per capita funding. The block grant would only apply to traditional adult and children Medicaid populations. These changes could potentially limit health insurance coverage and access to care for the most vulnerable individuals.
  • Health Savings Accounts: The update would not allow consumers to roll over excess tax credit money into a health savings account. This change was put in place to help prevent tax-payer funding from being used for certain purposes. However, this limits patient-decision making regarding their health dollars.
  • ACA Tax Increases: Several ACA tax increases would be repealed one year earlier (2017) than previously planned. These include the over-the-counter medication tax, the health savings account tax, medical device tax, health insurance tax, and tanning bed tax. The “Cadillac tax” on comprehensive employer-sponsored health plans would also be delayed to 2026.

It is unclear if these amendments would coax enough members to vote in favor of the AHCA. The vote is scheduled for this Thursday, March 23. If the AHCA passes the House with the required 216 votes, it still needs to go to the Senate where the path to passage is far less clear.

CSC is partnering with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and other cancer organizations to encourage advocates to call their Senators tomorrow, Wednesday March 22, 2017 to express their concerns around the patient-centered provisions of health care reform. Sign up to be a CSC Grassroots Advocate to receive information about this call and other timely updates on health care reform and policy issues that could impact individuals and families living with cancer.

Category: Advocacy