The Graham-Cassidy legislation would have given states enormous flexibility to eliminate protections for pre-existing conditions, allowing insurers to charge sick people exorbitant premiums. The bill would have also allowed states to eliminate the essential health benefits, which ensure that each insurance plan covers critical services like prescription drugs, hospital visits, and chemotherapy. Because the Graham-Cassidy bill failed, these ACA patient protections remain in place, but we must stay vigilant because this fight is far from over. We understand that Senators Graham and Cassidy plan to reintroduce their bill in early 2018.
The next most pressing issue surrounding health care is the lack of clarity around cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments, as mentioned above. These are payments the Federal government owes to insurance companies to help subsidize deductibles and copays for lower-income individuals. President Trump has threatened to stop making these payments, though the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said that premiums would increase by 20% if the government discontinues the subsidies, which many insurers have already considered in setting 2018 rates. This is why NCCS is encouraging Members of Congress to work in a bipartisan manner to stabilize the marketplace and make the cost-sharing reduction payments permanent. Senators Alexander and Murray were working together to do just that before the Graham-Cassidy bill pushed bipartisan efforts to the sidelines, and we are hopeful those efforts will continue. Now that we know the American people do not want to repeal the ACA, Congress should work to improve the law and ensure all Americans have access to comprehensive and affordable coverage.
Meanwhile, there are other ways the Trump administration is actively sabotaging the ACA, in addition to failing to commit to the cost-sharing reduction payments. These actions include weakening the individual mandate, cutting the open enrollment period in half, slashing the funding for enrollment outreach, and announcing that the Healthcare.gov will be shut down for extensive periods during open enrollment. These actions have created massive uncertainty in the insurance markets, driving up premiums. The efforts to sabotage enrollment threaten to reduce overall enrollment significantly and will make it more difficult for people, including cancer patients and survivors who need insurance, to purchase plans.
NCCS will continue to monitor congressional action and provide updates on our blog and social media platforms.
Follow NCCS on Twitter to stay updated on developments: @CancerAdvocacy.