WASHINGTON HEALTH LAW SUMMIT

Congress’ 2019 agenda for health care laws

At this time last year, the Republican-controlled Congress was looking to repeal the Affordable Care Act. What a difference a year makes. 

Left to right: Joe Geraci, ABA Health Law Section; Alice Ollstein, Politico; Adam Cancryn, Politico; and Juliet McBride, ABA Health Law Section

Left to right: Joe Geraci, ABA Health Law Section; Alice Ollstein, Politico; Adam Cancryn, Politico; and Juliet McBride, ABA Health Law Section

Not only were the Republicans unable to get rid of Obamacare, but come January they’ll be watching the newly elected Democratic-majority House of Representatives discuss at least eight bills that call for universal health care.

That’s the prediction of Alice Ollstein, a health care reporter for Politico. She and her colleague, Adam Cancryn, discussed the legislative outlook for health care at a Dec. 10 luncheon during the 16th Annual Washington Health Law Summit sponsored by the ABA Health Law Section.

The bills range from a single-payer plan for all to optional Medicare/Medicaid buy-in plans. Ollstein foresees a “testing phase” to gauge the popularity of this progressive push. While the enthusiasm is coming from the Democratic base, she said party leaders would rather focus their energy on preserving the ACA.

Cancryn said that in addition to figuring out a health care policy to coalesce around, Democrats will also need to define it and go out and sell it. Medicare is a popular and trusted program, Ollstein noted, so it is “politically savvy” to frame the debate as adding to it. And polling has shown more and more Americans believe that health care is a human right and important for everyone to have, as they do in every other developed country in the world.

Even so, Cancryn said a coalition of insurance companies, hospitals and drug companies is already organizing against the new plans.

Ollstein also said the fight would be key to how Democratic candidates will position themselves for a presidential run in 2020.

The reporters predicted other health care-related political battles on the horizon include drugs and drug prices, Medicaid work requirements, hospital consolidation and “surprise billing.” 

Related links: