The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, along with the Senate Committee on Finance, held health care related hearings as the Senate prepares to continue an agenda for health care reform. Details from each of the hearings are below.
- HELP: The HELP Committee held a hearing entitled "Stabilizing Premiums and Helping Individuals in the Individual Insurance Market for 2018." Witnesses for this hearing included state insurance commissioners from Oklahoma, Washington, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Alaska. The hearing focused on stabilizing the individual insurance market ahead of the 2018 enrollment period which runs from November 1 – December 15. Throughout this hearing, the insurance commissioners touted the need to establish a government funded reinsurance program to put downward pressure on increasing premiums. The witnesses testified that reinsurance funds would help pay insurers with the sickest claims and could potentially bring in more ACA insurers as they would have a better idea of how to manage the risk of the enrollee population. HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) appeared to back a state-based program, asking the witnesses why states couldn't launch their own reinsurance programs. Medicaid funding was not a major theme of this hearing. You can watch a replay of the hearing here.
- The HELP Committee held a second hearing entitled "Stabilizing Premiums and Helping Individuals in the Individual Insurance Market for 2018." Witnesses for this hearing included governors from Massachusetts, Montana, Tennessee, Utah and Colorado. Like the first hearing, all five governors testified that Congress should take action to establish a federal reinsurance program. The governors also supported greater flexibility for states to govern their own insurance markets. Chairman Alexander said "Our goal is to get a result in a very short period of time on a 2018 stabilization package that is small, bipartisan and balanced… this action wouldn't end the process – that would only be step one and then we'd go pretty quickly to step two on a long-term strong vibrant individual market, and I hope we can begin to spend most of our time on the larger issue of health care costs." You can watch a replay of the hearing here.
- Finance: The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on reauthorizing the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) which had been postponed from May entitled, "The Children's Health Insurance Program: The Path Forward." Witness for the hearing included a mother of CHIP recipient, the Executive Director of Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission and the Chief Deputy Director of the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services. All three witnesses advocated for a clean five-year extension of the program, which is authorized through 2020 but federal funding for the program will be exhausted on September 30th. The witnesses testified that state officials and children's advocacy groups are growing increasingly worried about the uncertainty of the program as previous efforts to extend funding have gotten bogged down in the larger ACA health care repeal efforts. The hearing focused primarily on whether Congress should simply reauthorize or extend CHIP. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) was the only Senator to mention Medicaid cuts. She asked the witnesses what the impact of the GOP's health care bill's cuts to Medicaid would have had on CHIP. You can watch a replay of the hearing here.
Courtesy NSBA Legislative Highlights 9/11/2017