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Getting Things Done: Patient-Centered Health Care

June 30, 2015

Six months into this Congress, the Ways and Means Committee has built up a strong record of success. Earlier, we detailed the victories in expanding American trade. Not to be outdone, our Health Subcommittee, led by Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX), has been racking up wins at an impressive pace.

The House has passed no fewer than a dozen health care bills from Ways and Means Committee members already this year. It’s all driven by a desire to put more control of health care in the hands of patients, rather than Washington bureaucrats. Let’s take a look at what we’ve accomplished in the health arena over the last six months.

Fixing the Doc Fix

Earlier this year, the president signed into law the first real reform to strengthen Medicare in decades, which finally repealed the flawed sustainable growth rate (SGR) in Medicare. This was a big deal. The SGR has tormented doctors, seniors, and Congress for years now, threatening access to care with steep cuts in Medicare reimbursements. Seventeen times Congress has had to step in—with a so-called doc fix—to stave off the cuts.

But no more. In March, the House passed a permanent solution put together by this committee, our colleagues at the House Energy and Commerce Committee, as well as the bipartisan leadership in the House. It replaced the SGR with a reimbursement structure that puts more focus on the quality of care, not just the quantity. In addition, the bill included real structural reforms that, over time, will provide significant savings and strengthen the program. As Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) wrote in an op-ed touting the bill, “Our plan would give doctors the certainty they need. It would give seniors the security they deserve. And above all, it would be a firm step toward a patient-centered healthcare system.”

Also included in this package was a host of other Ways and Means member bills that are now law, most notably the Protecting the Integrity of Medicare Act (PIMA), introduced by Chairman Brady. PIMA includes a series of commonsense reforms to make Medicare work better and reduce the risk of fraud. The SGR bill also included the Medicare DMEPOS Competitive Bidding Improvement Act, a bill sponsored by Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH).

Making MA Work Better

But our work on Medicare didn’t stop with SGR. The House has also passed a series of bills to improve the patient experience in Medicare Advantage (MA), the program’s private sector-run alternative. Bipartisan bills from committee members Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA), Rep. Diane Black (R-TN), Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL), as well as Chairman Brady sailed through the House, and we hope the Senate will process them soon so that seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage can be more in control of their care. As Chairman Ryan said upon passage of these bills, “We have an obligation to protect our seniors and ensure they have access to top-notch health care. These commonsense reforms will remove many unnecessary bureaucratic burdens that currently plague our MA program so that it’s more accessible for those it serves.”

Taking Aim at Obamacare

One of the first actions the House took on health care this year was a vote to fully repeal Obamacare. And while our friends in the Senate sort through how to advance repeal, we’ve also passed a number of other bills to dismantle the law. For one, the House passed—in a big bipartisan vote—a repeal of Obamacare’s harmful Medical Device Tax. This 2.3 percent surtax on everything from pacemakers to artificial joints to MRI machines is driving up the cost of health care, diminishing medical innovation, and threatening American jobs. Another threat to care is the Independent Payment Advisory Board—or IPAB. This unelected board of bureaucrats exists only to make cuts to Medicare services and ration access to certain treatments. That’s why the House voted to repeal it earlier this month.

Building the Case

Our action on health care has not been limited to passing all these bills either. In addition, the subcommittee and full committee have held important hearings to examine the problems plaguing our health care system. From the implementation of Obamacare to the employer and individual mandates to the need for greater competition in Medicare, Ways and Means is gathering facts and pressing the administration for answers.

More to Come

But we’re not content with all that we’ve accomplished this year. Far from it. For starters, the committee has also approved three other health care bills that await floor action: the Medicare Independence at Home Medical Practice Demonstration Improvement Act, the Steve Gleason Act, and the LTCH Technical Correction Act.

We’re also laying the groundwork for a much-needed hospital bill and looking at more ways to increase choices and lower costs in Medicare.

And of course, our efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare continue. Building off the work done to prepare for the King v. Burwell Supreme Court decision, our attention will now turn to a full replacement plan that puts patients in charge and actually makes health care more affordable. Simply put, we can’t achieve the kind of patient-centered system that we need while Obamacare is still in place. So, with six months of success behind us, we’re getting right back to work.