CEOs Are in a Healthcare Holding Pattern as They Wait on the House Healthcare Bill

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The House’s approval of President Trump’s American Health Care Act is obviously just the first stage of what promises to be a compelling, unpredictable and important drama over coming weeks and months.

Many CEOs see some significant things they like in the bill, features they hope will make it to the end of the legislative gauntlet. But others are troubled by the many unanswered questions left by the bill—and by some of what’s clearly intended by the bill, such as stripping coverage from some very vulnerable constituencies who have been covered under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

The early confusion around a bill that few understand or have even read is reminiscent of concerns that Republicans had about Obamacare during its passage in 2010, after then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”

Other CEOs believe that it’s just too soon to pay much attention to what’s happening at the moment with health-care reform, largely because so much is yet to be decided. There is a vexing lack of detail and the suspicion by some that the Republicans in charge of Washington, D.C., are attempting to make short shrift of their promise to overhaul healthcare coverage in large part so that it clears their agenda for launching into tax cuts and maybe tax reform.

Basically, the House version of the bill would free employers from a number of taxes and requirements of Obamacare. Most notably replaced is a requirement that larger companies offer health insurance to their companies or pay a penalty.

Also, coverage for those with pre-existing medical conditions could become more expensive in some states. This coverage is a linchpin of Obamacare and a political lightning rod. So while still barring insurers from denying coverage to people with health problems, Trump’s bill would allow insurers to charge these people higher premiums for about a year if they have a gap in coverage, if they live in states that obtain federal waivers. In essence, then, the Republican bill raises as many questions as it answers in regard to pre-existing conditions.

If the House version of the bill remains recognizable and is signed into law, believes Alejandro Badia, CEO of OrthoNOW, a franchisor of orthopedic urgent-care centers, it still would do “very little to impact the cost of healthcare or access to healthcare, which is what it was intended for. It does absolutely nothing to make the system more efficient and to expand the safety net for those less fortunate.”

But Badia still sees the new bill as “a positive. One of the disasters of healthcare is the expectation by the patient that their employer ‘will take care of them.’ [So] there is little incentive by the insured to use healthcare wisely or research options. A free market system will reward quality and efficiency, and this will drive down costs in healthcare as it does in all other business sectors.”

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