Health Committee Chairs Unveil Legislative Package to Make Health Care & Prescription Drugs More Affordable
As Americans face both the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting severe economic downturn, Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA) and Education and Labor Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA) today unveiled The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act, a legislative package that will provide much needed relief by making health care and prescription drugs more affordable. The legislation also expands access to health care, strengthens protections for people with pre-existing conditions, reduces racial and ethnic health coverage disparities and reverses the Trump Administration’s harmful actions to sabotage the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act makes health care more affordable by lowering health insurance premiums with strengthened and expanded affordability assistance. Specifically, the legislation expands eligibility for premium tax credits beyond 400 percent of the federal poverty line and increases the size of tax credits for all income brackets. The legislation creates a national reinsurance program to help cover the costs of consumers with expensive medical conditions, which helps lower premiums, and provides funds to states to help lower deductibles and out-of-pocket costs for everyone. It also offers funding to states to establish their own State-Based Marketplaces, which oftentimes have lower premiums.
The legislation also makes prescription drugs more affordable by empowering Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices and making those prices available to Americans with private health insurance. It will stop drug companies from ripping off Americans and charging them more than other countries for the same drugs. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that drugs subject to negotiation will see price reductions of up to 55 percent.
“The American people are anxious about their health and their economic future, and this legislation provides critical relief by making health care and prescription drugs more affordable,” Chairman Pallone said. “It’s commonsense legislation that takes the savings from lower prescription drug costs and invests it into lowering health care premiums and expanding access to affordable care. All around, that’s a win for the American people. We must take action to lower these soaring costs, expand access to health care, rein in the Trump Administration’s efforts to sabotage the ACA and protect people with pre-existing conditions.”
“While Republicans continue their efforts to dismantle America’s health care system in the midst of a pandemic, Democrats are putting forward a plan to expand access to care and lower costs,” said Chairman Neal. “We slash prescription drug prices, create larger premium tax credits available to more people, and devote funding to reduce out-of-pocket costs for everyone. With this legislation, we also take important steps to ensure patients are protected. The bill encourages remaining states to expand Medicaid and support vulnerable Americans, puts an end to the expansion of ‘junk’ insurance plans, and prevents states from using federal waivers to allow discrimination against patients with pre-existing conditions. And importantly, we also address the inequities in care that COVID-19 has brought to the fore through targeted assistance for Hispanic, Black, and Native Americans. For the health and financial security of workers and families across the country, Congress needs to pass this legislation.”
“This global health emergency is a stark reminder of our responsibility to expand access to affordable health care, and that is exactly what the Affordable Care Enhancement Act would achieve,” said Chairman Scott. “This proposal builds off the progress we made in the Affordable Care Act by lowering the cost of Marketplace plans, cutting the price of prescription drugs, and strengthening patient protections by reversing the expansion of junk health care plans. It is telling that in the middle of a public health emergency, House Democrats are proposing to strengthen and enhance the Affordable Care Act, while the Trump Administration is asking the Supreme Court to rip health coverage away from millions of Americans.”
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act also:
- encourages states that have not expanded their Medicaid programs to do so by renewing the ACA’s original expanded federal match. If all states expanded Medicaid, about 4.8 million more Americans would be eligible for Medicaid, including an estimated 2.3 million people who are uninsured;
- reverses the Trump Administration’s efforts to give states waivers to undermine pre-existing condition protections and weaken standards for essential health benefits;
- stops the expansion of junk insurance plans that allow insurance companies to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, put consumers at financial risk, and drive up comprehensive insurance costs;
- restores critical outreach and enrollment funding that has been gutted by the Trump Administration and provide funding for navigators to assist consumers in signing up for health care;
- combats the maternal mortality epidemic, which continues to particularly impact Black and Native American people, by extending Medicaid or Children‘s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage to new mothers from the current 60 days post-partum to one year;
- further reduces racial and ethnic health inequities by expanding coverage and premium assistance to more Black and Hispanic Americans; and
- protects vulnerable populations from losing health coverage by ensuring that Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries receive a full 12 months of coverage once enrolled, protecting them from interruptions due to fluctuations in their income throughout the year.
A one-page summary is available HERE.
A section-by-section is available HERE.
Text of the bill is available HERE.