New Dems to Leadership: Strengthen the ACA
Members offer alternative to “Medicare for all” approach to health care reform

March 6, 2019 by TWN Staff
New elected Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaks during the 116th Congress on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 3, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

In a departure from several high profile Democrats who recently endorsed “Medicare for all” or “single payer” style health care plans, New Democrat Coalition members urged House leadership to instead take action to strengthen the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on Tuesday.

In a letter to Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass, Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J., and Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott, D-Va., the group, widely known to be some of the more pragmatic members of the House Democratic Caucus, urged the Committees to continue the path toward affordable universal coverage by strengthening the Affordable Care Act.

Specifically, the New Democrats urged the Committees of jurisdiction to work to stabilize the individual health care marketplace, bring down health care costs for consumers, create a dedicated reinsurance program and state innovation grants, and provide additional premium assistance.

This comes just one week after Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-WA, introduced sweeping “Medicare for all” legislation that would create a single-payer, government-funded health-care program within two years.

The letter was led by NDC Healthcare Task Force Co-Chairs Angie Craig, Kurt Schrader, Kim Schrier, and Greg Stanton and the NDC Leadership Members, Reps. Derek Kilmer, Wash-06, Annie Kuster, N.H.-02, Scott Peters, Calif.-52, Terri Sewell, Ala.-07, Suzan DelBene, Wash-01, Pete Aguilar, Calif-31, Kathleen Rice, N.Y.-04, Ami Bera, Calif-07, Jim Himes, Conn.-04, Chrissy Houlahan, Penn-06, and Mikie Sherrill, N.J.-11. The letter was signed by 76 New Democrat Coalition Members.

The full text of the letter is below.

 

Dear Chairman Neal, Chairman Pallone, and Chairman Scott:

Thank you for the work you have done in your committees exploring ways we can lower health care costs, expand coverage and access, and improve quality of care across the country. Our constituents elected a Democratic majority in the House by choosing candidates who stood strongly in support of protecting those with pre-existing conditions and bringing down health care costs for all. Building upon your work and the work of the New Democrat Coalition last Congress, we urge your committees to deliver on the promises made to our constituents by prioritizing strengthening the Affordable Care Act and continuing the path toward universal affordable coverage.

First, we believe the House Democratic Caucus should immediately work to stabilize the individual health care marketplace. After years of damage done to the ACA from past Republican Congresses and the Administration, we must start by reversing the sabotage. Junk insurance plans, potentially harmful changes to state innovation waivers, elimination of cost sharing support, and reduced funding for enrollment outreach have only served to make the individual market less stable and uncertain for those with pre-existing conditions.

Second, we can also fortify the ACA by taking proactive steps to bring down costs for consumers. For example, the Congressional Budget Office found that the ACA’s temporary transitional reinsurance program reduced premiums by as much as 10 percent. Congress should create a dedicated reinsurance program once more. We also know that expanding health insurance enrollment would strengthen the health care marketplace and lower health care costs for millions of patients. One way to achieve this goal is to create state innovation grants, as was proposed in H.R. 5155, to help states experiment with new ideas such as auto-enrollment and regional exchanges. Additional actions we could take include providing additional premium assistance, providing more options for Americans near Medicare eligibility age, or reforming bidding areas to encourage competition.

All of these policy solutions would build upon the success of the ACA and deliver on our promises to constituents to work for them and make real progress toward more affordable and universal healthcare. Now that we are in the House Majority, we must follow through on these pledges and take decisive action to tackle rising health care costs. We know that these issues already have broad bipartisan support, and we urge you to continue your efforts from last Congress. We believe these goals are achievable in the 116th Congress, and the New Democrat Coalition is ready to support you in these efforts.

Sincerely,

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