Healio Special Report: Health Care and Politics

Healio Special Report: Health Care and Politics

September 21, 2017
2 min read
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Major physician groups urge Senate to stabilize health insurance markets

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Jack Ende

A coalition of major physician groups submitted a testimony to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee emphasizing the importance of stabilizing health insurance markets to ensure that patients have access to a variety of affordable and comprehensive health insurance coverage options.

The coalition consisted of the American College of Physicians (ACP), the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Osteopathic Association and the American Psychiatric Association.

The groups acknowledged and praised the committee’s efforts to improve the health insurance market and develop bipartisan solutions. They recommended that Congress make a long-term commitment to funding cost-sharing reduction payments to ensure that vulnerable patients have access to affordable coverage.

“We appreciate that the Chairman and ranking member of the [Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions] committee have decided to hold bipartisan hearings on the issues in the individual insurance market,” Jack Ende, MD, MACP, president of ACP, said. “We applaud this return to regular order and the opportunity it allows for physicians and other interested stakeholders to provide their expert advice and analysis on ensuring that our millions of patients continue to have access to critical health coverage in the future.”

In a separate testimony, the ACP offered the following recommendations to the committee, stating that Congress should:

  • Encourage reinsurance and stabilization efforts through state waivers, while keeping protections for essential health benefits, as well as protections from unnecessary co-payments or deductibles;
  • Support and fund outreach to promote patient enrollment in health coverage;
  • Ensure the administration enforces the requirement to purchase a qualified health plan; and
  • Establish a public option.

“Currently, exchanges in some states are having difficulty attracting enough insurers and some patients may only have one insurer from which to obtain coverage,” Ende said. “A public option would provide more options and increase competition. One potential approach could be to offer a buy-in program for Medicare or another public health program. This type of program could expand access to clinicians and continuity of care for individuals changing over to Medicare, while at the same time it could help to reduce premiums for individuals in the health insurance marketplaces.”

ACP also recommended that states consider selling insurance across state lines using the Affordable Care Act’s existing authority. In addition, ACP noted that Congress should support state innovation in developing methods to strengthen the individual insurance market.

“We greatly appreciate the Committee inviting input from the physician community and the opportunity to provide recommendations on strengthening the health insurance market, and stand ready to work with the committee on the development of any reforms where our experience and expertise could be of value,” Ende said.