The American Health Care Act (AHCA) “has many miles to travel” since it was passed by the House of Representatives earlier this month, an industry trade group leader said Thursday.
The bill will be “dismantled” in the Senate but will never pass the Senate in its entirety, she predicted.
That was the word from B. Ronnell Nolan, president and CEO of Health Agents for America (HAFA), during a webinar the organization held to update its members on the status of the health care bill.
Nolan said her organization believes that addressing the cost of health care is the most important consideration in health care reform. “Until premiums go down, nothing else will happen,” she said.
The AHCA gives the individual states more authority to make decisions on behalf of their citizens, Nolan said. “That could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on what decisions are made in the individual states,” she added.
Medicaid expansion is one of the biggest sticking points in getting Senate approval of the health care bill, Nolan said. The AHCA would freeze Medicaid expansion. In particular, Republican senators from states where Medicaid was expanded under the Affordable Care Act are feeling the heat from constituents who don’t want to lose their coverage.
“I do not believe the Medicaid expansion issue will go away,” she said. “The Senate will find another way to handle this.”
Nolan predicted that health savings accounts will be expanded under a health care reform proposal.
Because the AHCA deals only with budget-related issues, it does not address a number of the concerns that HAFA members have. Those issues include abolishing the health care navigators, getting rid of the Healthcare.gov website and eliminating the Medical Loss Ratio (MLR), which led to agent commissions being slashed or cut out completely.
“Eliminating MLR is still an issue but it is not included in this bill,” Nolan said. “The insurance companies tell me that unless they make money, they don’t care what the MLR says, they will not pay commissions.”
Right now in the Senate, Nolan said, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, has assembled what is known as “the Mitch McConnell Dream Team” to begin crafting a Senate version of health care reform.
“They are meeting behind closed doors – they are holding no committee meetings or public hearings,” she said. “They are scrapping the House bill and they plan to have their own version passed before the August recess.”
Susan Rupe is managing editor for InsuranceNewsNet. She formerly served as communications director for an insurance agents' association and was an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. Contact her at Susan.Rupe@innfeedback.com.
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