Bipartisan Approach to Health Care Bill Applauded by AAFP, Others

October 20, 2017 05:30 pm News Staff

The AAFP and a coalition of primary care groups applauded the work of two senators who are offering a compromise solution to keep health insurance plans affordable for many Americans who recently obtained coverage.  

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The AAFP and five other national health care organizations praised Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., for crafting a bipartisan bill that would continue federal subsidies to offset the cost of health insurance premiums, deductibles and copays. Unlike previous attempts to make significant changes to current law in closed door sessions, the new effort is a bipartisan approach in which legislators welcomed feedback from physicians.

"We believe this approach should serve as a model for all health care legislation to follow before being brought to a vote," said an Oct. 19 letter(2 page PDF) to Alexander and Murray that was signed by the AAFP, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Osteopathic Association, and the American Psychiatric Association. Copies were sent to Senate and House leaders.

The Alexander-Murray proposal includes several provisions that the AAFP and others asked for, including a two-year extension of cost-sharing subsidies through 2019.

It also would provide additional funding to HHS to increase enrollment through outreach efforts, another recommendation that the AAFP and other groups made. Both HHS and CMS would be expected to provide detailed reporting on their results in expanding enrollment.

A third provision that AAFP recommended would allow greater flexibility for states to support their insurance markets through a waiver program, while still protecting essential coverage.

Alexander and Murray reached an agreement after President Trump declared that his administration would stop providing federal cost-sharing reduction payments for health care coverage and issued an order that threatened coverage requirements in health plans.

The AAFP and other health care organizations have long urged legislators to fix the current health care law with bipartisan solutions. In a separate letter(2 page PDF) that also was sent to Alexander and Murray on Oct. 19, the AAFP expressed strong support for the senators' work across the aisle.

"The proposal seeks to stabilize the individual insurance market, but does so in a manner that retains the important consumer protections and insurance reforms under current law," the AAFP wrote.

The proposal would allow for low-cost "copper" insurance plans in state exchanges. These new plans would be required to provide at least three primary care visits that would be exempt from cost-sharing.

"The AAFP strongly supports this policy and we advocate that this benefit be extended to all high-deductible health plans," the AAFP stated. "Your policy proposal is a good first step toward achieving a more comprehensive policy with respect to no cost-sharing on primary care."

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