GOP shifts focus to small-scale ACA changes

U.S. Capitol building

In a distinct shift from ongoing plans to replace the Affordable Care Act entirely, House Republicans discussed smaller-scale changes to the healthcare law during a recent subcommittee hearing.

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health’s hearing focused on five separate bills that would require additional verification during special enrollment periods (SEP), allow insurers to raise healthcare premiums for older beneficiaries and shorten the grace period for beneficiaries who fail to pay their premiums, among other provisions.

 In his opening statement, Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) argued the legislative changes offer “a variety of options to begin to reduce costs.”

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Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum, testified that a “full repeal of the law… is clearly not achievable at this time.” Instead, he urged legislators to consider some of the realistic changes before them, like reducing the current 90-day grace period, which allows beneficiaries to receive 12 months of coverage while paying for just nine, and SEP restrictions that would prevent high-risk beneficiaries from taking advantage of the system. 

But in her testimony, Sara Collins, Ph.D., vice president of The Commonwealth Fund, pointed to a recent survey that showed more Americans were receiving previously inaccessible care, and noted that the bills in question could impact marketplace enrollment and leave 400,000 older Americans without insurance.

Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas) added that although the ACA is not perfect, it has improved access to healthcare. He argued the bills would “only serve to help insurance companies rather than people” by limiting coverage requirements. However, Green told The Hill prior to the hearing that he was happy to see Republicans were willing to consider smaller changes to the ACA.

To learn more:
- watch the subcommittee hearing
- read The Hill article
- here’s Douglas Holtz-Eakin’s testimony
- read Sara Collins’ testimony

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