House Republicans are moving to make immediate changes to the Affordable Care Act ahead of any major reform, and one subcommittee has held a hearing on four bills that address special enrollment periods (SEPs), grace periods, age rating, and preexisting conditions. Many of their provisions give states greater flexibility.
The hearing, held by the Committee on Energy and Commerce’s subcommittee on health, was called “Patient Relief from Collapsing Health Exchanges.”
“These hearings are just the first step in our efforts to rebuild our health care system and to ensure the stabilization of the insurance markets,” Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX), chairman of the subcommittee, said.
Burgess told Patient Daily that the bills are meant to ease the interim strain before major overhaul takes place.
“While we are committed to large-scale reform, many Americans continue to struggle under the weight of the ACA, and these bills provide patient-centered solutions to improve health care for all Americans,” he said.
The committee heard from three witnesses, including J.P. Wieske, Wisconsin’s deputy commissioner of Insurance. He compared health care plans in his state before and after Obamacare, criticizing changes that followed the introduction of the law.
“These one-size-fits-all changes have impacted rates, consumer choice and the ability for a free market to operate,” Wieske said. “A one-size-fits-all approach does not work in health insurance policy.”
He added, “We’ve had a significant number of market exits. We think we can get them to return if the market rules are more reasonable across the country. It’s not our rules that’s the problem: It’s the federal rules.”
In his opening statement, Burgess said that “real people are struggling as we speak, and we are not waiting to take action.”
“These bills are an important example of the work we are doing right now to advance member-driven solutions that will improve health care for all Americans,” he said. “I am hopeful that we can work together to reform our health care system for the benefit of the American people.”
In his opening statement, Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), chairman of the House Energy Committee, said the proposals close enrollment gaps, protect taxpayers, give patients cost relief and protect those with preexisting conditions.
But Walden veered somewhat from the core topics by addressing the price of drugs and promising legislation to encourage generic drug development and increase competition in the market.
“And for those in the industry who think it’s OK to corner a market, drive up prices and rip off consumers, know that your days are numbered," he said.
The congressman referred to a recent White House meeting with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, where it was made clear they wanted competition “that will bring lower drug prices and that is precisely what this measure will accomplish.”
“Patients are tired of waiting for relief," Walden said. "We are going to move forward in a bipartisan way to give them help. It’s an important step forward. And it needs to happen now."