Healthy Living

Health Care Reform in Washington Affects Parkinson's Disease Patients

Health Care Reform in Washington Affects Parkinson's Disease Patients

Lately, and especially during these last 150 days, there has been a predominant debate in the Congress. The controversy around the debate begins with the potentially negative impact this new legislation may be covering. Community affected by this decision have already made their opinion public, since the lawmakers have received at least 20,000 emails expressing displeasure and discomfort with the proposal.

Everything related to health care reforms have been through so many changes and announces people are very confused about what is true and what is not. Ted Thompson, the senior vice president of public policy at The Michael J. Fox Foundation (commonly abbreviated as MJFF) shared some information to help the community understand the events better and how will the Congress act in further processes.

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What is known so far is that in May of the present year, the House of Representatives decided to propose a health care reform bill that was called the American Health Care Act. Lack of participation from the Senate, deciding not to vote on the bill led to a different reform proposal to be started. Said reform is being developed by Republican leaders in the Senate in the form of a new bill called the Better Care Reconciliation Act (commonly abbreviated as BCRA). Just a couple of weeks ago it was made public that lawmakers will not vote on this bill stating it lacks enough support to be approved.

Predictions on what’s to come after the debate

A very delicate process has started in the form of an open debate period in the Senate. As the wording in said bill has not been clarified, it is not possible to measure direct consequences and how it will affect some kind of patients such as the ones suffering from Parkinson’s. What is there to known about the bill so far, is that it wouldn’t go into effect for two more years if it were approved.

These period of two years is the time the Senate has to develop a new health care reform proposal that can replace the Affordable Care Act (commonly abbreviated as ACA). But in order for the new reform proposal to make its way to the presidential table the House of Representatives would have to vote to approve the repeal of the ACA bill.

Until now, Senator’s opinion have been mixed, some of them supporting the “repeal now, replace later” motto and some of them remaining in silence or against it. Nevertheless, amending the BCRA is not off the table and it may be brought up for a vote.

The most worrying consequence about this attempt of trying to make the BCRA a law is the estimated amount of people that will lose their health care coverage. Ted Thompson says the CBO (common abbreviation for Congressional Budget Office) which is the nonpartisan agency in charge of statistics and legislation analysis has estimated up to 32 million Americans will be affected by BCRA, losing their health insurance, not to mention that premiums would double themselves in the next decade. Right now, it is difficult to have a clear picture of the Senate’s plan. It will all depend on how the debate evolves.

How would the new legislation affect the Parkinson’s community?

Until now the way this legislation would affect Parkinson’s community remains unclear. Thompson says “We are not sure if this decision would help or harm Parkinson’s community, but there are no warranties this replacement would help patients treating their chronic conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s itself or fibromyalgia.”

Uncertainty patients feel regarding the decision as well as the number of unanswered questions has raised a general rejection to the law. However, there are some possible ways to learn more about this event. At MJFF’s advocacy page, information is updated regarding the issue and anyone looking for learning more about policy issues that may impact healthcare community can visit their website.

However, for Parkinson’s community, Thompson has gave some recommendations that may be helpful in order to avoid unwanted surprises after it is too late. The first problem with the upcoming reform to BCRA is that people is not aware of the consequences, therefore the first recommendation is:

  • Raise the voice and speak to senators. Trying to convince them that repealing the ACA before the replacement has already been created is an awful idea since there are no ways to determine the consequences it may have in regards to the community affected by chronic diseases.
  • Putting more pressure on the Congress (23,000 emails is a great way to start) may serve as a way to have them giving more information regarding the replacement. Public hearings and opportunities to submit testimonies should be part of any legislation reforming process. Calling, emailing and scheduling meetings with lawmakers are all excellent options. Another useful piece of information provided by MJFF’s website is this list of senators’ talking points and phone numebers, perfectly set in order to urge them into creating a replacement plan before actually approving the repeal. It is important for Parkinson’s community and anyone affected directly or indirectly by this legislation to have speak out their needs and propose a way they can be covered in new legislation.
  • As a last resource option, people should stay tuned to whatever new information may be spoken regarding the future of this legislation and the impact it will have in chronic patients.