In Philly, Clinton allies say healthcare costs are next big battle


After six years of rock-solid defense, top healthcare advocates in the Democratic Party are now willing to acknowledge that the Affordable Care Act has fallen flat on affordability.

{mosads}At the Democratic National Convention this week, some of Hillary Clinton’s closest allies on healthcare are setting her up for a major battle to lower the cost of care, an issue they said needs to top her agenda as president.

“Healthcare costs, I really see as the next generation of healthcare reform,” Neera Tanden, the president of the Center for American Progress, said at a luncheon in downtown Philadelphia on Wednesday.

“Consumers are still feeling that healthcare costs are out of control. They still feel like premiums are rising, and I do think that is undermining support for the ACA itself,” Tanden said.

Families USA President Ron Pollack, who has been at the forefront of healthcare battles recent Democratic administrations, said dealing with rising out-of-pocket costs is unavoidable for Democrats.

“Affordability, affordability affordability. That’s the priority,” Pollack said. “That is where we have to go in the near future.”

Clinton has pledged to tackle rising out-of-pocket costs for care, though she has been careful not to put it at the top of her domestic platform so far. 

A White House-led effort aimed squarely at healthcare costs would almost certainly lead to a messy fight involving every corner of the healthcare sector, including health insurers, pharmaceutical companies and hospitals. 

The Wednesday panel, hosted by Americans United for Change, also included boldface names in health policy such as former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and two ObamaCare architects, Nancy-Ann Deparle and Chris Jennings. Jennings is also a senior health policy adviser to Clinton’s presidential campaign.

All were also closely involved in Hillary Clinton’s own healthcare reform plan in 1993, a high-profile failure that damaged Democrats in the next year’s midterm elections.  

Jennings said even in the aftermath of that failure, which he described as “the worst of days,” Clinton was keen to focus on where to go next. She moved on to the children’s health insurance program, something former President Bill Clinton touted in his Tuesday night speech to the convention.

Healthcare heavyweights — including acting head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Andy Slavitt and America’s Health Insurance Plan leader Marilyn Tavenner, a former head of the CMS —  were also in the room.

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