Pity the average citizen trying to figure out what’s going to happen with healthcare. During the week of July 9, proposed legislation changed in a day.
Before July 13, this is where things stood:
BCRA—the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017, released on June 22—was still waiting to be approved by the Senate before being sent to the president’s for signing. More than a few people were worried, especially those concerned about healthcare coverage for those suffering from addiction. Ask anyone—those working in addiction and recovery, to families of loved ones caught up in the disease, to anyone who has been through an insurance coverage nightmare or who has heard tales from friends—how difficult it can be to navigate the system when the problem is addiction and mental health, it hasn’t been easy. For years, a number of people had been working for parity in coverage for mental health and addiction disorders, and Obamacare —the Affordable Care Act —achieved that, according to The Fix. The ACA was passed in 2008 and by 2014, what so many people dreamed about came into being, starting with increased access to healthcare for many “by expanding Medicaid and offering low-cost insurance through the ‘Health Insurance Marketplaces’.” The law also stopped insurers from denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions, such as substance abuse. BRCA benefits are listed at https://www.dpc.senate.gov/healthreformbill/healthbill61.pdf and explained at sites like http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/07/12/breaking-down-the-senates-bcra-proposal. (The latter is a resource for benefits professionals.) Even Wikipedia does a good job of explaining them. Addiction experts were sounding off about what it would mean should BCRA pass. A July 6 opinion column on an independent Park Forest, Illinois website included comments from over 60 experts who opposed the proposed healthcare act. The Senate’s version of healthcare repeal would cripple national efforts to address this public health epidemic, the article said, and the piece backed that statement up with several arguments. Two are below. 1 “Research has clearly shown that substance use disorders are complex, chronic medical conditions, best treated with comprehensive and integrated care” (and we cannot go back to financing them separately and treating them the same way, as before the ACA.) 2 Medicaid reductions and caps in BCRA mean that many substance abusers will lose coverage for treatment designed to save their lives.
On July 13, the Senate introduced a revised plan:
As CNN reported: 1 The new bill has an amendment allowing inexpensive, deregulated insurance plans “as long as Obamacare-compliant plans are sold.” 2 States will receive more money for their healthcare initiatives, including $45 billion for fighting drug addiction. There is more, but those seem to be the changes most important related to addiction treatment. Two moderate Republicans immediately took issue with the revision, saying that it will “hurt people with pre-existing conditions…who got coverage under Obamacare” and adding that the reductions in Medicare funding will hurt low-income families and others. The revised bill also increases the number of people who will be left without insurance. The finishing touches to the plan are due July 17, and now, Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator Bill Cassidy have yet another proposal. If you’re not following all this, it’s understandable. There will not be a quiz.