All the Health Priorities in the $1.4 Trillion Spending Deal

The end of the year bipartisan spending deal will allocate $1.4 trillion in federal funding for the remainder of the fiscal year (through Sept. 30) and avoid a shutdown. The House has already passed the deal and the Senate is poised to do the same by tomorrow.

Samuel Corum for The New York Times (Source Linked)

So what health priorities made the cut for this deal?

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The Power of the Purse

Congress will send a $1.4 trillion spending deal to the President this week. It will fund the government and avert an end-of-the-year shutdown. The House has already passed the deal and the Senate will take it up by the end of the week. The government is currently operating under a continuing resolution that expires Dec. 20.

Read about the health-related specifics of what’s included in the deal here. But first let’s start with some key concepts related to Congress’ power of the purse.

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Back to Basics: Single Payer & Medicare-for-All

Estimates from the Urban Institute project that in 2020, the federal government will spend $732 billion on Medicare, $464 billion on Medicaid and CHIP, $60.4 billion on the health insurance marketplaces, and $27.5 billion to hospitals for uncompensated care. Households will spend $931 billion, employers will spend $955 billion, state governments will spend $285 billion on Medicaid and CHIP and $17.2 billion for uncompensated care, and providers will spend $24.1 billion.

We’re talking about an insane amount of money – honestly seems like Monopoly money to me.

Reigning in healthcare spending has to be a policy priority, it’s simply unsustainable. Medicare-for-All would shift most of the spending to the federal government, to the tune of $34 trillion over a decade.

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Congressional Committees with Health Care Jurisdiction

Health care is such a massive topic that it takes more than one Congressional committee to handle all the health-related legislation. It’s important to know which committee a bill will be referred to for any advocacy work! Speaking with committee members should be a priority.

Once a bill is introduced in the House or the Senate, it is referred to the committee with jurisdiction over the topic or program addressed in the bill. Committees then refer it to the appropriate subcommittee and conduct an evaluation of the proposed legislation. Let’s take a look at what is under the jurisdiction of the major health care committees on both sides of Capitol Hill.

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California Adopts Statewide Insurance Subsidies

Not only are the views of the California coast spectacular, but now they come with the bonus of a buffer to the rising cost of health insurance.

California will be the first state to offer state-funded tax credits for insurance purchased through Covered California, the state insurance Marketplace. The federal government offers credits as well, but many people fall into a coverage gap due to earning too much for Medicaid and the federal credit but too little to afford insurance on their own. The California credits will be paid for in part by a new tax penalty on Californians who do not have health insurance.

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Improving Quality of Care for End-Stage Renal Disease

I spent this rainy morning shadowing a pediatric nephrologist, the specialists for kidney function in kids. The number of conditions they see is vast, but each has a unique course and some can progress to renal failure, even with medical intervention.

Chronic renal failure is the result of slowly progressive kidney diseases (and it not often reversible). 1 in 3 American adults is at risk for kidney disease — the two main causes of CKD in the adult population are diabetes and high blood pressure. In kids, CKD is often associated with inherited disorders, malformations present at birth, and autoimmune diseases, to name just a few.

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$12 Billion in Risk Corridor Payments at Risk

On December 10, 2019, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments concerning $12 billion that insurers say they are owed by the federal government as part of the risk corridor program.

The risk corridor program was one of the ACA’s three premiums stabilization programs (along with risk adjustment and reinsurance). The temporary risk corridors program was designed to run from 2014 to 2016 and meant to encourage risk-averse insurers to participate in the ACA marketplaces.

Here’s how the program was set up: If a plan’s costs were lower than it’s premiums, the plan would pay a share of it’s profits to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). If the plan’s costs exceeded premiums received, the plan would receive a payment from HHS for it’s excess costs. Insurers entered the marketplace under the assumption these risk corridor payments would be made to cushion extreme gains and losses.

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