Passage of Two Crucial Amendments Would Secure Health Centers’ Ability to Treat New Patients
By the NACHC Federal Affairs Team
Late last night, less than 12 hours after the Senate Finance Committee adopted an amendment containing the MATCH Medicare payment fix for health centers, the Committee brought up another crucial amendment designed to strengthen health centers and expand access to care for our patients.
This amendment, championed by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), would ensure that private insurance plans operating through the new “health insurance exchanges” pay health centers no less than the fair and predictable rate we get under Medicaid. After a short debate, the amendment PASSED, 14-8. Each of the Committee’s Democrats, as well as Republican Senator Olympia Snowe (ME), voted in favor. Learn more about the original Menendez C3 amendment here.
The third amendment we have been following – requiring exchange plans to contract with health centers and other safety net providers – was not offered in Committee, but there is still good reason to expect progress on that front. Each of the other 4 bills passed by House and Senate Committees contain such a protection, and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) is working with other champions of this provision to ensure its inclusion in the final Senate bill and in the bill eventually signed into law.
These two victories are crucial to putting health centers, our patients, and our prevention-oriented system of care at the heart of health care reform, and they are a testament to the power of health center advocacy.
Yet, there is a long road between where we stand and passage of meaningful health reform legislation into law. The Finance Committee will vote next week, with a goal of bringing a bill to the Senate floor for a vote the week of October 12. The House must then pass its legislation, and the two must be merged together. To be sure, hurdles remain – but we are well positioned moving forward.
The overall financial scheme of the Senate Finance bill – expanded Medicaid and subsidies to the hideously inefficient private insurance industry – offsetting the cost by reducing Medicare payments – is going to make this politically DOA. One cannot help but think that this was intentional.
In practical terms, we are seeing a contraction of access (which was never universal, and for many of the working poor, got worse) due to complete runaway costs in Massachusetts, supposedly the model for this.
Only a single government payer will actually expand meaningful access with any hope of controlling health care costs. NACHC should have the political courage to advocate for what our communities really need.
Go for it.
Carmen Waite, RN
Go for it.
I too am concerned about growing the bloated system of health care distribution. Cost containment is at least as important as access, because without it we will not be able to serve people. I think we need to start with Medicare reforms because that is the tail that wags the beast here. The primary reason we need to get a handle on health care access and cost is the global meltdown of our Medicare program when the boomers start making their demands.What we defer now will cost us 1,000 times more later. Even if people can’t get their arms around a moral imperative to cover people for basic health care, saving money on an existing social program should sway them. Where is Ross Perot when we need him? I liked his graphs on government spending.
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