The 2017 healthcare policy roller coaster ride — and what’s around the bend

Posted December 15th, 2017 by

It’s been a year of wild ups and downs related to the proposed U.S. healthcare policy changes and unknowns around the Affordable Care Act (ACA or “Obamacare”), Medicare and CHIP (an insurance program for kids). See a legislative recap and what could be next.

2017 ACA repeal efforts recap

Having trouble keeping track of what happened this year? You’re not alone. Check out this timeline.

In the spring, we shared the results of a May 2017 PatientsLikeMe healthcare poll, which found that nearly 3,000 participants are largely aligned about components of a strong plan for the country. Right when we announced the poll results in mid-June, the Republican majority in Congress was trying to pass the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which would’ve repealed most of the ACA/“Obamacare.” PatientsLikeMe members shared our poll results – showing the largely united patient voice – along with their personal views in messages to their members of Congress through this Take Action page.

Over the summer, the ACA repeal efforts failed to gain enough support in the Senate, despite a few different attempts (including the Better Care Reconciliation Act, and the so-called “repeal only” and “skinny repeal” bills – see a legislation refresher here).

This fall, Congress turned its attention to tax reform (but has lumped in healthcare changes with less fanfare). In early December, the Senate passed a tax bill called the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that could repeal the individual mandate of the ACA (the part of the healthcare law requiring that all Americans have health insurance).

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects that without the mandate, the number of uninsured Americans would jump by 4 million in 2019, on up to 13 million by 2027. Some view the healthcare changes in the tax bill as an attempt at the “skinny repeal” all over again and say that without the mandate, the ACA/Obamacare is at risk of collapse unless Congress takes action to “prop up” the health insurance markets.

Now what? The tax bill is not yet final – now the House and Senate are hashing out differences in their versions of the legislation. Many members of Congress in the Republican majority appear to support the repeal of the individual mandate (one of the least popular parts of the ACA). But most Democrats and several vocal groups like the AARP oppose the tax bill and the possible healthcare fallout.

The estimated $1.5 trillion U.S. deficit increase over the next decade and beyond will “inevitably lead to calls for greater spending cuts, which are likely to include dramatic cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and other important programs serving older Americans,” AARP says, noting that the tax bill would lead to $136 billion in federal funding cuts in fiscal year 2018, $25 billion of which must come from Medicare. “Such sweeping cuts would be detrimental to an already vulnerable population,” AARP says.

CHIP and VA healthcare programs

Two other pieces in the U.S. healthcare puzzle are also facing risks or changes, but they’ve gotten a lot less news coverage.

The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides low-cost health coverage to kids in families that earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid. In the past, the program had bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, but Congress let federal funding for CHIP expire in September and now states are scrambling to sort out a backup plan for the 9 million children enrolled.

The Kaiser Family Foundation made a map illustrating when states could run out of CHIP funding, with 16 states projected to exhaust their funds by the end of January 2018. They say that children in CHIP may be enrolled in Medicaid, which means states will pay more because the federal match rate for Medicaid is lower than it is for CHIP.

The Veterans Affairs (VA) Choice program could also be in limbo if Congress doesn’t act soon to approve emergency funding to the ailing program, which would expand access to care at non-VA facilities in some cases. VA Secretary David Shulkin is reportedly taking steps toward more privatized healthcare for veterans.

What’s your take on U.S. healthcare policy? Join PatientsLikeMe and discuss your views with nearly 30,000 patients who are interested in advocacy. Also, write to your reps in Congress — patient voices matter.

 

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PatientsLikeMe names 2018 Team of Advisors

Posted December 14th, 2017 by

 

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., December 14, 2017PatientsLikeMe has named 13 members to its 2018 Team of Advisors, a patients-only group that collaborates with the company on new research and product development, advocates on behalf of patients, and provides real-world perspectives to industry and PatientsLikeMe partners.

“This is now our fourth Team of Advisors, and its members have consistently been some of our most vocal and important partners,” said Executive Vice President of Marketing and Operations Michael Evers. “Their insights on everything from product development to design and research, and their strong role as advocates, will be invaluable as we progress with our more advanced initiatives.”

Evers said those initiatives include DigitalMe, which will merge genetic, biological and experiential data from multiple sources to create a personalized, digital representation of health and disease, and give people actionable information to improve their health and health care. “More than half of the 2018 Team of Advisors are participating in DigitalMe. They will be a great resource as we adopt more advanced biological measures to find new signals about health, disease and aging.”

Nearly 1,000 PatientsLikeMe members submitted applications for this year’s team. The 2018 members include 10 women and three men representing a cross section of medical and professional backgrounds, ages and conditions, including: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); bipolar disorder; breast cancer; epilepsy; fibromyalgia; lupus; major depressive disorder (MDD); multiple myeloma; multiple sclerosis (MS); Parkinson’s disease; and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The members named to the team are: Elizabeth Asdorian; Kip Edwards; Marcia Holman; Melinda Lowery; Bernadette Mroz; LaKeisha Parnell; Rich Pollock; Christine Von Raesfeld; Rosie Stambaugh; Paul Tavano; Alysia Taylor; Susan Tomasic; and Jeanette Alston-Watkins.

Rosie Stambaugh joined PatientsLikeMe in 2010, and is living with MDD and fibromyalgia. “There’s an isolation when you’re chronically ill that can work against you. PatientsLikeMe gives you a lifeline to hold onto. You’re talking to people and sharing data and insights, so that everyone can help each other. As an advisor, I will be able to raise my impact by providing hope and answers to those getting diagnosed, today and in the future.”

The 2018 Team of Advisors recently kicked off its 12-month collaboration with PatientsLikeMe in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and will convene several times during the upcoming year.

About PatientsLikeMe

PatientsLikeMe, the world’s largest personalized health network, helps people find new options for treatments, connect with others, and take action to improve their outcomes. The company has worked with every major pharmaceutical company and a range of government organizations to bring the patient voice to research, development and public policy. With more than 600,000 members, PatientsLikeMe is a trusted source for real-world disease information and a clinically robust resource that has published more than 100 research studies. Visit us at www.patientslikeme.com or follow us via our blog, Twitter or Facebook.

 

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