With the recent midterm elections now completely behind us, many are wondering what changes can be expected over the following year in healthcare. Will the Democrat-led House be able to legislate any meaningful reforms with a Republican Senate in power? Here are some of the prevailing predictions for the future of health insurance in 2019 and beyond.
Instead of focusing efforts on the wholesale removal and revamping of the ACA, the new Democratic majority in the House can now concentrate on safeguarding the many Obamacare provisions that are broadly favored by the American public.
The liberal-leaning concept of Medicare for all was an idea on which many Democratic candidates campaigned during the recent midterms; however, significant legislative reforms will be nearly impossible to execute. Even if House Democrats managed to pass this kind of bill (which is highly unlikely in and of itself), it would be dead in the water as soon as it hit the Republican-led Senate. Antagonism for socialized medicine has been a mainstay of Republican thought for decades and the Trump administration has only ramped up its vitriolic attacks over the past few months. In fact, in mid-October, a rare presidential op-ed appeared in USA Today in which the President himself used inflammatory language to describe Medicare for All, decrying the policy as a “planned government takeover of American health care” by Democrats that would “eviscerate” Medicare as we know it.
While more profoundly liberal policies like universal coverage will be non-starters in the Senate where Republicans maintain a slim majority, Democrats in Congress are predicted to enact some other reforms in the health space. The national Democratic “For the People” campaign includes plans to reform key aspects of healthcare, including cost containment to curb insurance premiums and rein in drug prices.
While Republicans and Democrats generally disagree on the approach, both parties believe in the need for the federal government to play a bigger role in regulating prices for prescription drugs. As part of their agenda, House Democrats are set to propose a plan to allow Medicare to use its vast buying power to bargain down the prices of prescription drugs with pharmaceutical companies. They have also pledged to appoint a “price gouging” czar to fine drug manufacturers if prices are unjustifiably increased past a certain set threshold level.
There tends to be some level of consensus between the parties on a number of different issues, such as maternal health, biomedical research and the opioid crisis. Firstly, one bipartisan group of 14 senators has joined forces to demand that the Trump administration develop new strategies to reduce maternal deaths caused by complications of pregnancy. Additionally, initiatives to increase funding to support research on diabetes, Alzheimer’s and other diseases as well as pandemic preparedness has already gained widespread support from both sides of the aisle. Lastly, a package of bills to combat the opioid epidemic known as the Support for Patients and Communities Act has recently been signed by President Trump. This piece of legislation seeks to facilitate access to addiction treatment facilities as well as to stimulate law enforcement efforts against illicit drugs and the over-prescription of opioid medications by doctors.