According to National Public Radio (The Status Of Trump’s Cabinet: Where Everyone Is In The Process And How It Works, January 24, 2017) and other sources, a few Cabinet nominees are now confirmed, such as Retired Gen. James Mattis, Department of Defense (won 98-1 vote), retired Gen. John F. Kelly, Department of Homeland Security (won 88-11 vote), and Nikki Haley, U.N. Ambassador (won 96-4 vote). Although not officially part of the Cabinet, Mike Pompeo was confirmed as Central Intelligence Agency Director (won 66-32 vote).
Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State has been voted out of committee to the next step, the Senate. The basic steps taken for each nominee are—first, nominated by president/president-elect. Second, Senate hearings convene before relevant Senate committee. Third, nominees are voted out of committee. NPR added “If a majority of the committee votes for the nominee, it goes to the Senate floor for a vote by the full body. (A caveat here: the Senate majority leader can bring a nominee to the floor for a full Senate vote even if they do NOT get the approval of the relevant committee. It’s rare, but it’s happened in the past.).” The fourth step is nominee is confirmed by full Senate in floor vote.
As of the writing of this article, those now voted out of committee are Ben Carson (Housing and Urban Development), Elaine Chao (Transportation), and Wilbur Ross (Commerce). These await full Senate confirmation. Others are still awaiting committee vote, such as Rick Perry (Energy), Ryan Zinke (Interior), Betsy DeVos (Education), Jeff Sessions (Attorney General), Steve Mnuchin (Treasury), and Scott Pruitt (Environmental Protection Agency).
These nominees are awaiting hearings: Linda McMahon (Small Business Administration), Mick Mulvaney (Budget Director), Tom Price (Health and Human Services), Andy Puzder (Labor), Dan Coats (Director of National Intelligence), Robert Lighthizer (U.S. Trade Representative), Sonny Perdue (Agriculture), and David Shulkin (Veterans Affairs).
As you follow along with each hearing and vote, there continues a fast-paced movement as well on Obamacare repeal/replace. It seems every day there is another leap toward repeal and replace. To review the guideposts, go back to read the GOP task force report published June 2016.
Also, as mentioned in previous article, Fiscal Budget Resolution (S. Con. Res. 3) was passed and is the first step toward repeal and replace. The resolution “Establishes the congressional budget for the federal government for FY2017 and sets forth budgetary levels for FY2018-FY2026.”
There are four committees (two in the Senate, two in the House) who had until today (Jan. 27, 2017) to produce legislation repealing major provisions of the Affordable Care Act. These committees consist of House Energy and Commerce, House Ways and Means, Senate Finance, and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. These committees control Healthcare budgets and spending.
As these committees unfold their legislative proposal for repeal, all of us are wondering, “What about the replacement?” There are many on both sides of the aisle trying not to let the uncertainty get to them. Yet, for any of us citizens, it’s been a very unsettling process so far. The media hasn’t really helped that much either with their biased sound bites in both camps. Yet, as I write this article series, I am beginning to glean some clarity, hopefully. Here is what I have come up with so far.
According to a conservative Newsmax interview (Jan. 16), Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana said there have been actually four plans formulated from the Republican side. All are similar in scope and protections. Cassidy officially presented his plan on January 23 to the Senate, Patient Freedom Act 2017. This plan was originally offered in 2015. The 2017 version now has six co-sponsors.
You can read a one-page summary of this plan and view presentation at Senator Cassidy’s website. Simply type “Patient Freedom Act 2017” in the search field. You will then have various options to read and view. Basically, this proposal “. . . keeps essential consumer protections, including prohibitions on annual and lifetime limits, prohibition of pre-existing condition exclusions, and prohibitions on discrimination. It also preserves guaranteed issue and guaranteed renewability and allows young adults to stay on their parents’ plan until age 26, as well as preserving coverage for mental health and substance use disorders.”
All plans have several similar principles on which they are based, such as refundable tax credits going directly to patients to buy insurance of their choice; state legislatures will make decisions over health insurance rather than Congress; and automatic enrollment in health coverage until you decide to choose another option. You will also have the option to get off your existing plan and start building a Health Savings Account. Their “overall vision” wants us to become actively engaged in the choice of a health care plan that works for each person and price.
This all may sound hopeful. Yet, there are still so many questions and concerns facing our nation’s healthcare reform with this repeal and replace process. The Business Wire offers us a look at those concerns from a survey done by eHealth, Inc. which operates eHealth.com (January 24, 2017, Opposition to Obamacare Repeal Increases Between November and January Among Obamacare Enrollees but Support for Republican Reforms Remains Strong, According to eHealth Survey).
According to Business Wire, eHealth, Inc. is “. . . the nation’s first and largest private online health insurance exchange, published results from two voluntary email surveys of eHealth customers who purchased Obamacare-compliant major medical health insurance plans through eHealth.com.” This survey shows both support and opposition to portions of the Republican proposals, to be covered in next week’s article.
Until then, check out Senator Cassidy’s proposal summary and CBS News GOP summary pdf. And if you are wondering about your ACA health insurance coverage and plan options going forward, go to www.Healthcare.gov, insurance marketplace. Keep in mind, deadline for ACA auto-renewal and other options, with extension exceptions is coming up in a few days, January 31, 2017! You can always call them to help you work through the process and hopefully get answers to your questions and concerns (1-800-318-2596). See you next week as we continue working it out together.