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The new face of Congress: How the midterm elections will reshape the healthcare legislation landscape

November 20, 2018
By Annette Bechtold

The dynamic results of the midterm election prove, once again, that the people can, and do, have a voice in the shaping of the political landscape. In November 2016, the election of a new, and some will say, unconventional president, set the foundation of change for 2017. Two years later, each voter is responding and reacting to current needs, and the changing environment now shapes the face of the new 116th Congress that will take office.

Congressional healthcare reform horizon
One of the biggest topics that drove people to the polls was healthcare and with the midterm elections in our rearview mirror, now everyone is hoping to see big changes. With the House flipping to a Democratic majority and the Senate marginally expanding their Republican majority, most are asking how this changes things and what, if anything, they will accomplish when it comes to healthcare reform. Since neither chamber has a veto or filibuster-proof majority they will need to work together to make any significant strides.

First off, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will remain the law of the land for the near future. Healthcare was a main topic in the Democratic midterm campaign and each party has an interest in passing legislation that will improve the law. This is a departure from the landscape of the 115th Congress where repeal and replace was the theme.

The challenge now will be finding areas of agreement and prioritizing which items to tackle first. From Congress members and constituents alike there is no clear indication of what has been good or bad about the ACA. It depends on the person. Clearly, there are wins and losses for everyone. Balancing the two to decide on the areas or provisions to address without adding any new consequences is key, and this will be a delicate balancing act.

Regulatory agencies’ healthcare reform horizon
While Congress looks to start their new roles and relationships, the Trump administration and regulatory bodies, i.e., Departments of Health and Human Resources (HHS), Treasury, and Labor (DOL), continue moving forward. As we have seen through the recent rules on association health plans, (AHPs), short-term limited-duration insurance plans (STLDIs), and health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs), regulators continue to respond to the president’s executive orders to improve choice, simplify administration and reduce cost.

We should expect the trend to continue for the next two years. Their list of the “to-dos” affecting individual and employer health insurance plans includes:

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