Providers exhale but remain cautious after healthcare bill demise

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The bill's withdrawal from the House will shield providers from "widespread damage," Sloan says.
The bill's withdrawal from the House will shield providers from "widespread damage," Sloan says.

Long-term care providers are hoping to go back to the drawing board with lawmakers this week after a GOP House healthcare bill was yanked off the table Friday.

President Donald Trump told the Washington Post on Friday that “we just pulled” the American Health Care Act shortly before the vote was set to occur. Trump added that he didn't “blame [House Speaker] Paul [Ryan]” for the bill's failure to garner enough votes to pass the House.

LeadingAge said in a statement that the group is pleased that the “deeply flawed” proposal was pulled from consideration, especially since “nothing could be done to the bill to mitigate the widespread damage” that could've been caused by its Medicaid provisions.

“Since the introduction of the AHCA legislation, LeadingAge members and their residents have sent thousands of messages to Congress in opposition to the bill,” said Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO. LeadingAge members met with members of Congress this week as part of its PEAK show.

“We are thrilled that their voices have been heard and their concerns recognized,” she said.

The group also urged lawmakers to open up any future changes to the Affordable Care Act to public input, and consider “policy solutions that will best serve all Americans.”

The American Health Care Association echoed LeadingAge's sentiments, telling McKnight's they're “waiting to see what the next steps are for healthcare reform,” but hope that lawmakers will “look for ways to protect the elderly and individuals with disabilities as they consider future Medicaid reform efforts.”

Cynthia Morton, executive vice president at the National Association for the Support of Long Term Care, told McKnight's that while the bill's failure was "surprising," it ultimately helped alleviate the group's concerns about Medicaid's possible shift to a per capita cap system.

"I believe the bill was moving way too fast," Morton said. "Medicaid is a complicated program and changes to it need to be thought through and considered."

Judith Stein, executive director of the Center for Medicare Advocacy, said in a statement that Friday was “a good day” for the group and for people “frightened that they would lose their health coverage, that Medicaid would be decimated, and that Medicare would be weakened.”

“For now, they can breathe easier, knowing that they can still access quality health coverage and necessary care,” Stein said. “But, those who wished to repeal these programs will be back. And they may encourage the Affordable Care Act to fail, rather than fine-tune and strengthen it.”

An analysis from Standard & Poor noted by AHCA last week had indicated that the bill's passage in the House could spell disaster for nursing home providers, as the industry's reliance on Medicaid funding — which the proposal would have slashed dramatically — make it “the most vulnerable healthcare subsector.”

Julius W. Hobson, Jr., a healthcare lobbyist and attorney with Polsinelli in Washington, D.C., told McKnight's that the bill's much-maligned Medicaid provisions likely contributed to its downfall. Moving forward, Hobson advised long-term care providers to keep an eye on any new or changing regulations from federal agencies, despite the relative “status quo” the bill's withdrawal brings.

“For the long-term care arena, probably the next thing to look at are the regulations,” Hobson said. “The thing for [providers] is they're in sort of a cone of uncertainty, because we don't know what the administration will do.”

Hobson noted that Ryan's Friday press conference on the withdraw lacked any mention of the GOP's next steps in regards to their campaign promises to “repeal and replace” the ACA. Ryan, however, said Obamacare is "the law of the land" for now, while Trump has made it clear he plans to move onto tax reform.