As we approach the lazy days of August, I want to offer a shopping list of healthcare issues that will be the focus of any action that takes place prior to Washington’s annual August recess. There are two pieces of legislation that may see some action prior to August . . . they may even get signed into law.
The first piece of legislation is the infrastructure bill, a rare attempt at passing some type of bipartisan legislation. I can’t give you any odds on its passage, but I can tell you that it will be a prime place for some last minute backroom dealing, that could involve some of the healthcare issues listed below.
The second possible bill comes under the umbrella of budget reconciliation. This is a somewhat complicated process employed in the Senate, with the main point being that, when this process is used, it only takes a simple majority for the bill to pass and the filibuster is not in play. It is almost certain that this bill will be a partisan, Democrat only, bill. It is very possible that this bill will contain some changes to your healthcare.
There are many proposed changes to our county’s healthcare that have been considered over the years and have become more in play in the last few months. I will list these issues below, most of which I’ve discussed in earlier blogs. I won’t include all the links, but a quick search will yield the blogs that have discussed in more detail the issues you are interested in. The first group of issues are proposed changes that have some bipartisan interest and, therefore, are more likely to be included in one of these two bills.
Some bipartisan support:
- Price transparency – Unmask some of the prices and costs in the drug business process to encourage competition.
- Surprise billing – When beneficiaries use out-of-network providers they are often surprised with a huge bill. Proposed legislation would limit the amount to be charged and increase the notification process.
- Balance co-pay costs – This change would let Medicare enrollees spread out their copays in monthly installments so they wouldn’t be faced with the entire yearly cost in the first few months.
- A cap on prescription drug out-of-pocket costs – This change would put a beneficiary cap on the yearly out-of-pocket cost for the Medicare prescription benefit, Part D.
- Drug importation – Allow states to import drugs from foreign countries, primarily Canada.
- Drug negotiations – This would allow the government to essentially set drug prices.
- Limit drug prices – Base drug prices on those of a select group of foreign countries.
- Limit existing drug price increases – Using the Consumer Price Index (CPI) (inflation indicator), the government will limit the amount certain drug prices could be increased.
- Expand Medicare eligibility – Possibly lower the entry age to 60.
- Expand Medicare benefits – Add dental, hearing and vision coverage.
- Change the prescription drug rebate process – Push rebate savings to the patient at the pharmacy counter.
- Telehealth – Expand payments and eligibility for telehealth services.
These are the main changes that have been proposed. There could be others that work their way into the discussion.
Finally, there is one change that I haven’t talked about in earlier blogs but has become an important, likely bipartisan, issue. This is the inclusion of diversity in all aspects of our healthcare.
The pandemic highlighted some basic flaws that have existed in our healthcare system for years but have been under reported and, in some cases, ignored. COVID-19 served to shine a light on some of these flaws that have been experienced by minorities. It showed how the lack of diversity, not only in the healthcare workforce but also in communication and in the reporting process, has had a negative impact on minorities in our country. We began to make changes, as trials for new COVID-19 vaccines and medicines were designed with a requirement for inclusion of minorities. Flawed diagnostic processes that altered the validity of the diagnosis for minorities were identified. Our country is finally awakening to the embedded lack of understanding that exists in our healthcare system. I’m pretty sure that some sort of diversity requirements, regulations and oversight will find its way into one of these bills.
It is possible that these bills will not be finalized until the fall but there is a concerted effort to have something done so that the politicians can go back to their home states and districts with something to talk/brag about. It could be an active end of July and early part of August. We’ll try to keep you up-to-speed on what’s going on.