The Tampa Bay Healthcare Collaborative (TBHC), with support from the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg, hosted its first ever Healthcare Action Summit on May 19. The one day event brought national, state and local experts together to discuss healthcare policy proposals, and how they could impact Florida. Leading advocates also reviewed effective tools and techniques to use in healthcare advocacy, and provided examples from various campaigns promoting access to healthcare coverage and care.
Carmel Shachar of Harvard Law School and Joan Alker of the Georgetown Center for Children and Families outlined the major federal policy changes being proposed in the American Health Care Act. The bill, which is currently under consideration by the US Senate, would cut nearly $900 billion from the Medicaid program, and change the way premium assistance is determined for those purchasing insurance through the marketplaces, or exchanges. Under the bill, those who are older and have lower incomes would receive lower subsidies to help them afford insurance.
A separate concern regarding the continuation of cost sharing reductions (CSRs) in the marketplaces was also discussed. CSRs are a discount that lowers the amount low and moderate income consumers pay for deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance for plans purchased through the marketplace. Payments are made to insurers, who provide the subsidies to their members. The Trump administration has provided mixed information on whether it will continue CSRs. Up-to-date information about the status of these payments is available from our partners at Families USA.
Zachary Pruitt and Steve Freedman from the University of South Florida, Edward Kucher of Community Health Centers of Pinellas, Inc. and Jason Altmire of Florida Blue then discussed how the proposed changes would impact Florida. It is estimated that 2 million Floridians could lose their health insurance coverage under the American Health Care Act. Additionally, Florida’s Medicaid program could be forced to scale back the services provided to enrollees.
Although the Florida legislature failed to pass any major healthcare legislation this session, it has expressed interested in implementing a Medicaid block grant program that would drastically reduce available funds and likely lead to service cuts.
To respond to these threats, leading advocates shared effective strategies for encouraging policymakers to protect access to coverage and care. Elizabeth Isom shared her firsthand account of trying to get care for a serious illness without insurance due to a pre-existing condition. Scott Darius of Florida Voices for Health led an interactive training on high impact story-telling, including both lobbying and non-lobbying activities stakeholders can engage in. Futhermore, Melissa Burroughs of Families USA, Roxey Nelson of 1199 SEIU Florida and Melanie Hall of the Family Healthcare Foundation provided examples of the advocacy work their organizations have conducted, and provided insight into how stakeholders can participate. The role of Navigators and in person Assistors was discussed, including what Assisters need to know about the market stabilization rule.
Your voice and stories will be more important than ever this summer as the US Congress works on the American Health Care Act bill. TBHC will continue to work with partners to provide updates on the status of the policy proposals discussed during the summit. If you would like more information, or to access the resources disseminated at the Summit, please contact us.