2 posts tagged “congress”

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in mid-June, the Republican majority in Congress was trying to pass the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which would’ve repealed most of the ACA/“Obamacare.”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.

Editor’s note: On December 20, Congress passed the tax bill, including the repeal of the ACA/“Obamacare” individual mandate. The mandate is still in effect for 2018, so those who don’t have health insurance can still face tax fines. The ACA’s private, individual insurance markets will still be around after the mandate goes away in 2019 but could experience “turmoil” because fewer healthy people will be in the markets, as Fortune reports in their article about what the tax bill’s healthcare changes could mean for you.

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World Parkinson’s Congress recap

Posted November 18th, 2013 by

Here at PatientsLikeMe, we always look forward to hopping on the road and visiting you, the members who generously share personal health journeys so everyone can learn to live better, together. Recently, Molly (she’s part of your Community Team), Brad and Jim (part of our Partner Marketing team) drove north to Montreal to attend the World Parkinson’s Congress with a few PatientsLikeMe members, and they wanted to take a quick second to report back on the experience. Check it out.
 


Off to MontrealThe World Parkinson’s Congress is designed to create a worldwide dialogue to expedite a treatment or cure for Parkinson’s Disease. It was amazing to see physicians and scientists, alongside health care professionals and nonprofits, connecting with patients and caregivers. It was a wonderful conference, and we were glad to be among the more than 3,300 participants who gathered in Montreal.

We couldn’t have picked a better setting than Old Montreal to meet with four of our Parkinson’s community members – Aunti_J, Sap011235, Sunshine221, and Red Hat Queen. They all attended the conference and joined us for a wonderful dinner at Chez L’Epicier. The cobblestone streets, gorgeous historic buildings and an unseasonably warm evening set the scene for exquisite French cuisine with new friends.

But the setting couldn’t hold a candle to the experience of meeting PatientsLikeMe members in person. After reading their forum posts, answering their questions, and hearing about their experiences with Parkinson’s for well over a year on the website, I was eager to give them a big hug in real life. We talked travel, DBS, support groups, community walks, and perhaps most poignantly, how and why each person joined PatientsLikeMe. Aunti_J left us with this touching memory of how she found PatientsLikeMe:

“I had to retire from my work about 2 years after I was diagnosed and I really felt like I was going home to die. I spent an entire year feeling so depressed. Then I found PatientsLikeMe and within a half an hour, I felt like this weight was lifted off my shoulders. I felt like I found ‘me’ again.”

Aunti_J joined in 2008 and continues to be a warm and welcoming voice in the community for all Parkinson’s patients who are sharing their journey at PatientsLikeMe.

The goodbyes came too quickly, the hugs were worth more than the distances we all traveled to get to them, and when we returned to our “real” communities at home, and to our virtual family on PatientsLikeMe, we carried with us the realization that we truly do live better, together.

PatientsLikeMe member MollyCotter