The U.S. health policy landscape has evolved as the country enters another year of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Biden administration advances new priorities.
Health policy has focused on expanding and improving coverage as well as promoting health equity. A panel of policy experts gave their thoughts on the policy changes we’ve seen so far, as well as the levers the administration could use to advance its own priorities, during a Manatt webinar. Health.
Allison Orris, a partner at Manatt Health, said the administration “is likely to pivot a bit to see how it can move its priorities forward.” She noted that bipartisan efforts are needed to advance health policy in Congress, as Democrats tightly control Congress and midterm elections will be held in November.
Orris listed the following accomplishments in the health policy landscape under the Biden administration:
- Congress enacted the US bailout to fund vaccinations, make market coverage more affordable, encourage Medicaid expansion and support communities as part of a plan to address healthcare inequities. health.
- The rate of uninsured Americans is lower now than it was before the pandemic. Medicaid enrollment has increased sharply due to the economic downturn as well as ongoing COVID-19 coverage requirements. The Affordable Care Act market saw a record number of listings, thanks to improved financial aid.
- The pandemic has accelerated telehealth flexibilities in Medicare, Medicaid, and private coverage, as well as increased adoption of telehealth among providers and patients.
- The administration followed Trump-era policies such as Medicaid work requirements.
All eyes are on the administration as health policy legislative activity slows in 2022, Orris said. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Department of Health and Human Services have regulatory tools to advance administration priorities around:
- Facing the pandemic.
- Improve and expand Medicaid, Medicare and market coverage.
- Address prescription drug pricing.
- Protect consumers from surprise medical bills.
- Advancing health equity.
Addressing prescription drug pricing is an issue that Congress and the administration could work together to accomplish, said Ian Spatz, senior adviser at Manatt Health.
“One of the most politically popular things the administration and Congress could do is lower drug prices,” he said. Spatz noted that drug pricing is a part of Biden’s Build Back Better plan, which is popular on both sides of the aisle.
The U.S. bailout increased premium subsidies at all income levels for health plans sold in ACA marketplaces, but the improved subsidies are due to expire at the end of this year. The Build Back Better bill would maintain these enhanced subsidies, but whether the expansion will continue is a question, said Joel Ario, chief executive of Manatt Health.
“If the subsidies go away, affordability becomes a bigger issue in the market,” he said. He predicted that ACA enrollment would plummet if those grants weren’t renewed.
The United States remains under a public health emergency until at least mid-April. The requirement for continued Medicaid coverage will end when the emergency ends. The unwinding of continuous coverage will have the largest and most negative impact on coverage since the ACA was enacted, said Cindy Mann, partner at Manatt Health. After the emergency ends, states will be required to establish eligibility for nearly everyone who is enrolled in Medicaid.
“The risk of eligible people losing their Medicaid coverage is great,” she said. Under Build Back Better, Medicaid enrollees in states that have not yet expanded Medicaid coverage would be eligible for market-enhanced coverage, she added.
Susan Rupe is an editor for InsuranceNewsNet. She previously served as communications director for an association of insurance agents and was an award-winning journalist and editor. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @INNsusan.
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