CRAMER: House Keeps Up Momentum on Health Reform – Veterans, Job-Seekers, Taxpayers Get Relief
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Kevin Cramer supported a number of health reform bills this week passed out of the House of Representatives.
The bills are considered part of the “third phase” for health care reform – the phase that makes legislative policy changes and requires 60 votes in the Senate instead of a simple 51-vote majority required for Senate passage of the American Health Care Act (AHCA). “You’d be hard-pressed to find this information in the news lately, but Congress continues to move forward on health care reform expeditiously, and it’s actually the most productive beginning of a Congress in more than 25 years,” said Cramer.
This week’s bills aim to expand health care options for veterans and the unemployed while also protecting taxpayer dollars.
H.R. 2372, the VETERAN Act ensures vets can choose to purchase health care in the individual marketplace under the American Health Care Act should they choose not to receive care through the Veterans Administration (VA). “We’re keeping our promise to provide more quality health care options for our veterans,” Cramer said. “This bill makes law the ability for veterans to receive the monthly tax credits provided by the American Health Care Act, even if they’re eligible to purchase insurance through the VA.” Under law, people eligible for insurance through programs such as TRICARE, Medicare, or Medicaid are not eligible to receive help purchasing health care option in the individual marketplace. An existing regulation makes an exception for veterans – who are eligible but not enrolled in VA insurance. The VETERAN Act codifies this language into law.
H.R. 2579, the Broader Options for Americans Act, helps people who recently lost their job to continue using the insurance they received through work by providing access to the AHCA monthly tax credits. Currently, people who lose their job can continue using their health insurance through a program known as COBRA continuation coverage. However, they must pay full premium costs – and sometimes more – without access to Obamacare’s current subsidy program. “Ironically, folks on Obamacare who lose their job have to pay more for COBRA coverage, not less,” Cramer said. “We want to encourage people who have lost their jobs to get back on their feet. Our bill also applies to Americans who have similar coverage provided through churches or other houses of worship.”
H.R. 2581, the Verify First Act, protects the taxpayer from waste, fraud, and abuse by verifying a person’s eligibility to receive financial assistance before the health insurance plan goes into effect. Fraud has been an ongoing problem under Obamacare since subsidies can be dispersed without fully verifying an individual’s eligibility. “Every time someone takes advantage of our government safety-net programs, the people who truly need the programs are being punished with higher costs or less assistance. In order to continue providing high quality coverage to the most vulnerable among us, we need to make sure the assistance is going towards people who truly need it.” Cramer said. The Verify First Act builds off the added safeguards included in the AHCA, which expressly define who is eligible to receive monthly tax credits.
On top of this week’s health reform legislation, the following bills have already passed the House and are awaiting further consideration in the Senate:
HR 1304, the Self-Insurance Protection Act, which clarifies that federal regulators cannot redefine “stop-loss” insurance as “health insurance coverage” under federal law. Specifically, the bill amends ERISA and the Public Health Service Act to continue allowing employers to utilize stop-loss insurance coverage, a financial risk-management tool, when offering employees health care coverage through a self-funded plan. Passed: April 2017
HR 372, the Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act, which ensures health insurance issuers are subject to the same antitrust and unfair trade practices laws with which all businesses comply. The bill specifically prohibits businesses from engaging in anti-competitive practices, including price fixing, bid rigging, and market allocation that could drive up healthcare costs. It is the first step to allowing insurance companies to sell across state lines which will increase competition and reduce premiums. Passed: May 2017
HR 1101, The Small Business Health Fairness Act, which amends the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 to allow small businesses to join together in association health plans (AHP) across state lines through bona fide trade associations to become larger purchasers of health insurance. Specifically, the bill relieves small businesses that form AHPs from costly state-mandated benefit laws that often make coverage prohibitively expensive. Passed: May 2017