Does the GOP’s American Health Care Act still have a pulse?
Less than two weeks ago, President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) declared the GOP-sponsored American Health Care Act all but dead. That statement may not be the final word, however — Republicans began talks to revive their Obamacare repeal and replacement plan last week.
This is a big turnaround for President Trump, who loudly blamed the hard-line conservative Freedom Caucus for sending the AHCA to defeat. “The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don't get on the team, & fast. We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018!” he tweeted on March 30.
Yet on April 3, Politico reported that Vice President Mike Pence, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney met with Freedom Caucus members in an attempt to reach a compromise that could restart health care reform efforts. By all reports, these groups still have yet to craft legislation that’s palatable to all parties. Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has declined to set a timetable for when a new law would be introduced. So, what’s slowing down the negotiations?
More Than a Few Sticking Points
The bill initially failed because of a multifaceted disagreement: moderate Republicans were worried about an estimate of 24 million losing health coverage by 2026 under the AHCA, the Freedom Caucus spoke out against “new entitlements” included in the bill, and the White House totally failed to create consensus on an acceptable health care reform package.
Coverage limits and mandated health services have emerged as the main points of contention between the warring conservative factions. The Freedom Caucus reportedly wanted to eliminate several core Obamacare provisions: the individual mandate, the obligation to provide coverage for pre-existing conditions, and allowing young people to remain on their parents’ policies. These are all elements of the Affordable Care Act that President Trump has previously endorsed.
Politico reported that Freedom Caucus conservatives might be willing to let those provisions stand if states were permitted to opt out of certain federal regulations, such as the community rating requirement. If a governor did choose to opt out of an ACA requirement, they would have to provide documentation justifying how their decision lowers costs and improves coverage.
Even as negotiations are said to continue, an accord acceptable to all sides appears elusive at this point. “I've heard nothing of substance at this point that would break the logjam,” said Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC), a member of the Freedom Caucus.
Still in Limbo
With lawmakers apparently locked in ongoing discussions about health care reform, your clients will certainly have questions about the future of their coverage options. Because these political negotiations are guaranteed to fluctuate, you could try to answer their queries based on how various proposals might impact them if enacted.
For example, if the pre-existing mandate is scrapped, health care experts have predicted higher premiums for sicker people. Or, if young adults are no longer allowed to stay on their parents’ plans, your clients may need to secure short-term health insurance for their dependents (until they can find a more permanent option).
Consequently, now is the time to discuss these possibilities with your clients. If your policyholders have preexisting conditions, they should be particularly well-prepared for any forthcoming health care reform (even if the ACA is never actually changed). Although negotiations on this topic remain in flux, you can still act as a trusted advisor by keeping up-to-date on the latest developments and answering all of your clients’ most pressing questions about potential policy changes.