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Healthcare Leaders Don’t Anticipate Repeal of the ACA Anytime Soon

At the same time, Congressman Greg Walden is dealing with a caucus that’s eager to enact such legislation.
February 15, 2017

The future of the Affordable Care Act took center stage earlier today when the Portland Business Alliance brought together a panel of health policy experts who agreed that nothing is likely to change very soon because of the political wrangling in Washington DC.

“The best of Obamacare and Trumpcare is going to be called Traumacare,” joked Bruce Howell, health care group leader at Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt, who said polls indicate one-third of Americans don’t understand that Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act are one and the same thing. “That’s a frightening statistic with the populace rising up.”

Howell predicted the conservative wing of the Republican Party will try to repeal the ACA within the next 30 days but not succeed. They don’t understand it’s not as simple as coming up a new law and pushing the ACA away, he said. “As we move forward, I think we’ll see a skeleton of the ACA with a lot of changes.”

Changes are definitely on the horizon, concurred Kraig Anderson, senior vice president and chief actuary at Moda Health. “But the politicians are not going to be in a rush to completely change anything soon,” he said. A new version of the ACA could emerge in 2018, he said, but that shouldn’t impact the rate filing deadline in May for next year’s individual and small employer market since it will take time to roll out a new law.

“It’s very likely the employer mandate will go away,” Anderson told employers gathered at the Sentinel Hotel. That mandate only affects large employers with more than 50 employees.

Very few small businesses have taken advantage of tax credits across the country, roughly 250,000 employers out of the 4 million who are eligible, Anderson said.

But if the subsidy on the individual market were to end, which has led many more people to sign up for insurance coverage, Oregon stands to lose $300 million of federal dollars that flow into the state, he added.

Congressman Greg Walden’s in a tough spot, said Eric Hunter, president and CEO of CareOregon, who also chairs the Health Share board of directors. “His caucus wants the ACA to be immediately repealed,” said Hunter who visited with Walden in Washington DC last week.

Walden would like to keep the pre-existing benefit, and allow people to remain on their parent’s insurance policy until age 26, Hunter said. “I don’t see anything happening until a good year. There’ll be no certainty for quite some time.”

Turing to the budget deficit faced by legislators in Salem, Hunter’s heard of conversations about introducing the “Son of 97”which could help offset the $1 billion shortfall in the Medicaid budget next biennium. Ballot Measure 97 was soundly defeated last fall. “We’re watching that intensely,” he said.

Hunter is also concerned about the new contracts for coordinated care organizations. The Oregon Health Authority could limit the number of CCOs or turn to a competitive bidding process., he said. Currently, 16 CCOs around the state are responsible for 1 million people on the Oregon Health Plan.

Oregon Health Forum dives into this topic on Feb. 22 when it brings together a panel of experts to discuss the future of CCOs.

Diane can be reached at [email protected].