Aug 11, 2017

4 things mayors can be optimistic about in health care debate

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

NEW ORLEANS — Despite the failure of the GOP health care effort in Congress, there's good news in the health care debate right now, a former Senate Republican budget aide said at a working lunch at the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting this afternoon. The highlights from Bill Hoagland, a former staff director for the Senate Budget Committee:

  • On opioids: If Trump declares the opioid crisis a national emergency, — depending on which law Trump turns to to do so — mayors and states might have to be less creative about funding for remedying the opioid crisis, meaning they wouldn't have to worry about offsetting as much. That might help stabilize the market in the short term.
  • "Medicaid is off the table from the time being from my perspective" on Capitol Hill. (The U.S. Conference of Mayors sent a letter to Congress last month noting any proposal that cuts Medicaid is a nonstarter.)
  • ACA is the law of the land and CHIP reauthorization will take place, per Hoagland. (CHIP reauthorization is on the calendar for the first week of September, although it's hard to know right now what the conversation will entail.)
  • Bipartisanship: Senators Lamar Alexander and Murry are planning to start work on a bipartisan plan this fall. Read the details from Axios' Caitlin Owens.

The bad news: Cost sharing reduction payments to insurers are due Aug. 21, but Hoagland said it is unclear if Trump will continue these payments, which reimburse insurers for cost sharing help for low income people. Without the payments, the insurance markets could further destabilize.

The next steps: John Giles, the Mayor of Mesa, Arizona, told other mayors that the next time lawmakers return to health care drafting, it could be a good idea to say, "let's start with a clean sheet of paper."

Why it matters: "When people don't have access to an affordable health insurance product, they die," as Karen DeSalvo, former Acting Assistant Secretary for Health and National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, put it.

Call to action: Giles said mayors have got to organize to lobby their senators and representatives to get the results they want. DeSalvo stressed that "the short game, is the markets need to be stabilized if you want to see people getting coverage."

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