Barring something unexpected, as discussed in Doc Jess’s post, the major action for the rest of this Congress on health care is likely to be at the administrative level with Tom Price doing his best to undermine the Affordable Care Act. However, there have been some unanticipated holes that have developed over the past seven years that do need to be fixed. As such, if Democrats regain control of the House and Senate in 2019 what issues should they be looking to address.
At the top of my list is the Medicaid expansion hole. Back in 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that states did not have to participate in the Medicaid expansion. The Affordable Care Act assumed that every state was going to participate in the expansion and only provided for subsidies for those who did not qualify for Medicaid. When a significant number of states opted to not expand Medicaid coverage, this created a group who earned to much to sign up for Medicaid, but too little to get subsidies to purchase insurance. The obvious fix is to expand the subsidies to cover this gap group.
The second issue concerns the exchanges. Again, the Affordable Care Act assumed that most (if not all) states would opt to set up exchanges just on principles of state autonomy. (Why would Republicans who complain about the feds taking over the insurance market let the feds take over the insurance market in their states?) It turned out that Republicans in the state wanted the symbolism of resisting more than actual local control. This problem offers a chance to offer the Republicans a two-edged sword. The Republicans complain that one of the problems with health insurance is that companies are unable to offer policies that cross state lines. (Placing the blame on regulations is not accurate, and the biggest restraint on such policies is the need of insurance companies to have deals with the local hospitals.) So I would offer up for discussion an exemption for policies offered on the federal exchange. If a state does not have its own exchange, policies on the federal exchange will be exempt from state regulations and will only be subject to federal regulations. If a state wants to regulate those policies, it can take over the exchange. If not, a state will not be permitted to sues state regulations to obstruct the federal exchange. My hunch says that the states will not opt to set up their own exchanges and that the exemption of insurance companies from state regulations will not increase the number of policies that cross state lines.