We reported to you earlier about progress the House of Representatives has made in advancing, on a bi-partisan basis, pro-consumer health reform legislation. This week, two more bills were passed—more positive progress than has been made since Sen. John McCain’s famous thumbs down in 2017.
- By a big 320-71 bipartisan vote Monday night, the chamber passed the Lower Cost, More Transparency Act, a major team effort of the three major committees with jurisdiction over health policy issues—Energy and Commerce, Education and Labor, and Ways and Means.
- The House passed in June a companion bill, the CHOICE Arrangements Act, that gives small businesses more options in providing health coverage and gives employees more flexibility in how they spend their health coverage dollars.
- On Tuesday, the House reauthorized opioid treatment and prevention programs through the SUPPORT Act, passed soon after a Senate health committee passed its own version of the measure.
All three bills passed the House with bi-partisan support and await Senate action.
Importantly, they all went through the normal legislative process, starting with subcommittee hearings to vet the details of the bills, and not via a huge, clumsy, opaque “omnibus” spending bill that no legislator has time to read or consider. The three bills each incorporate numerous targeted bills sponsored by individual members.
These are important milestones toward patient-focused health care. Dozens of members worked together through the Healthy Futures task forces that began work in 2020 to set out an agenda for health reform and engage members in the details of policymaking. The overall goal is to give people access to choices of more affordable health coverage and care in a revived market catering to their needs and preferences.
During most of the year, health care had moved off center stage, allowing Congress to consider, outside the political spotlight, a series of bills that together, can lead to meaningful change and have bipartisan support.
- The Lower Cost, More Transparency bill requires hospitals, health insurers, labs, and other providers to make accurate, accessible price information available to patients and consumers. It addresses the obfuscation of drug prices by pharmacy benefit managers that can inflate prices and co-payments for patients, and would lower out-of-pocket costs for seniors who receive outpatient medications in a hospital-owned setting.
- The CHOICE Act (“Custom Health Option and Individual Care Expense Arrangement Act” or the “CHOICE Arrangement Act”) recognizes the difficulties small businesses have in providing health coverage to their workers and gives new options to businesses in vulnerable small group markets. The bill includes the Self-Insurance Protection Act and would codify access to more and more affordable coverage options through Association Health Plans.
It also would codify and improve the Individual Coverage Health Reimbursement Arrangements that would give employees more options of health coverage with tax-preferred dollars.
- The third vote reauthorizes of the landmark SUPPORT Act (the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Reauthorization Act of 2023). All three bills build on Trump administration policies. President Trump signed the original substance abuse law in 2018 to address the nation’s opioid and mental health crises. This legislation also has bi-partisan support in the Senate.
So this is important progress as we close out 2023 to set out a clear and pro-active agenda for the 2024 campaigns about the future of our health sector.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, and Happy New Year. We have much to be thankful for.