Ahead of the Senate’s expected vote on the Graham-Cassidy bill, leading voices on state health care systems came together Wednesday morning to discuss how states are pursuing market reforms and innovations. The event explored next steps on health care reform and how state waivers could be affected by the proposed legislation. The event was sponsored by Delta Dental.
The discussion opened with a reporter panel featuring Drew Armstrong, U.S. Health Team Leader for Bloomberg News, Anna Edney, a health reporter for Bloomberg News, and Brian Rye, a government policy analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence. Rye elaborated on elements of Graham-Cassidy, describing how the bill would place health care decisions back in the hands of states through block grants. According to Armstrong, the politics surrounding the bill remain fluid as the plan is receiving pushback from all sides, and the Senate has a deadline of September 30 to consider the legislation. The discussion concluded by focusing on key influencers who could have an impact on the eventual outcome including Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Seema Verma, the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Rye reminded the audience that Ms. Verma, with her expertise in state health care plans, was appointed assuming that state flexibility would be a fundamental aspect of health care reform.
A panel with state health care experts followed, featuring Hemi Tewarson of the National Governors Association, Matt Salo of the National Association of Medicaid Directors, and Dan Meuse of State Health and Value Strategies. The panelists discussed the current use of state innovation waivers to address health issues in their populations, such as Alaska, which implemented a reinsurance program to help cover high-cost patients. The top two concerns for states, Tewarson said, are insurer competition and the rising cost of health insurance premiums. Meuse added that states are also worried about the lack of certainty over cost sharing reduction payments, with some states seeing 8-20 percent of their proposed premium increases due to this issue alone.
Salo expressed hope that states would eventually be given the freedom to tweak legislation to fit their unique needs, noting that there are no “stone tablets” or one-size-fits-all solutions. However, according to Salo, no state is currently prepared to take advantage of the increased flexibility envisioned in Graham-Cassidy, which would effectively require that a state build a health care system from scratch in two years.
During his opening remarks, Delta Dental Plans Association President and CEO Steve Olson noted that 90 percent of Americans think oral health should be part of health care policy conversations. He also stated that oral health is a critical part of overall health and, as the largest and most experienced dental benefits provider in the U.S., Delta Dental is the perfect partner in helping Americans achieve optimal overall health.