Congress has an opportunity to shift from repeal and replace of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to other pressing health care topics. In my experience, segmenting large issues into smaller parts enables us to solve major issues step-by-step. My advice is to focus on historically bipartisan issues that can be addressed in pieces.
Ascension Wisconsin is committed to providing compassionate, personalized care to all, with special attention to persons living in poverty and those most vulnerable. We strive to achieve 100 percent access and 100 percent coverage in our communities, which is why we are calling attention to several timely healthcare issues that are worthy of focus.
One important issue that needs to be addressed is stabilizing the individual insurance market. We applaud the Bipartisan Health Care Stabilization Act of 2017, aka the Alexander-Murray bill. This bill would strengthen the individual health insurance market, provide states like Wisconsin more flexibility in covering residents and allow more widespread availability of catastrophic plans. It also would restore cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments that help make coverage affordable for lower-income enrollees. Incredibly, this bill would accomplish these goals while also saving taxpayers almost $4 billion. This demonstrates the type of results that are possible through thoughtful collaboration.
Other pressing issues that need immediate attention include:
Federal funding for the recently expired Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): Both parties have already launched the process to extend funding for this vital program that provides coverage for lower-income children.
Federal support for Community Health Centers. This has always received strong bipartisan support, and we are encouraged by legislation that has been announced. Regardless of what happens with the overall healthcare debate in the future, Community Health Centers will remain an essential component of our healthcare delivery system because of the important role they play in providing healthcare services in underserved communities.
Access to care for veterans. In August, Congress provided emergency funding for the Veterans Choice Act, which continues to depend on bipartisan support for re-authorization. We strongly support this vitally important work, which honors our commitment to those who have served our country.
Prescription drug pricing. Pharmaceutical pricing continues to be a challenge, and several bipartisan proposals, such as the Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples (CREATES) Act, work to eliminate barriers to generic competition and reduce prices.
Policies like these help to slow the rate of healthcare inflation, a goal supported by both major parties.
The Exchange in Wisconsin currently covers more than 200,000 individuals, yet there is significant confusion for 2018. Uncertainty coupled with a 42 percent funding reduction in enrollment assistance in Wisconsin creates the perfect storm for substantial loss of coverage in 2018.
We are proud the uninsured rate in Wisconsin has been cut in half over the past several years thanks to the Exchange and smart state policies; however, as a safety net health care provider from Racine to Eagle River, we are concerned that the confusion around enrollment will set us back.
While a health care overhaul may not be possible, we call on Wisconsin’s federal delegation, with their congressional colleagues, to begin with these issues, which can be negotiated as important pieces of the puzzle.
Patients in Wisconsin are in need. We encourage Congress to act now.