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May 2, 2019

Stephanie Kennan Analyzes First Congressional Hearing on Medicare for All

The U.S. House Committee on Rules held the first hearing on Medicare for All legislation this week.

In a May 2 analysis for Pharma Letter, McGuireWoods Consulting senior vice president, Stephanie Kennan, reviewed key points from the hearing.

While the subject matter of the hearing was familiar, the hearing itself was unusual, according to Kennan.

“Typically, the Rules Committee only holds hearings on bills that have gone through the appropriate authorizing committees,” Kennan said. “When asked about the break in procedure, Chairman McGovern (D-MA) answered, ‘there is a new sheriff in town.’ The House Budget Committee is expected to hold a hearing sometime in May as well – not unheard of, but also unusual.”

The hearing focused on the need to address the inequities of the U.S. health care system and the lack of universal coverage. Witnesses gave pros and cons, including how current Medicare coverage for services can differ between Medicare contractors and patients provided compelling stories about the immorality of the current health care system.

“While the conversation the committee had with witnesses was cordial, and helpful, it was looking at the issue from a 50,000-foot view and did not bring to light any consensus among members on what is needed,” Kennan said.

Other questions and comments focused on the reduction in payment to providers and hospitals, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was given credit in passing for holding down health care spending. However, 17 states have not expanded Medicaid, and witnesses pointed out that the promise of the ACA was not quite achieved.

“Missing from the discussion was the fact that as the insurance market was shaking out and insurers were gaining experience to understand the new market, a new administration made changes that were designed to undermine the market as they worked on a repeal plan that never passed,” Kennan said.

She added that it is clear the authorizing committees in the House are working toward stabilizing the current market, but it is yet to be seen what will interest the Senate.