ObamaCare experts: Don't expect fixes in 2017

ObamaCare experts: Don't expect fixes in 2017
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Leading experts on healthcare policy say they’re not holding their breath for major fixes to ObamaCare in the next Congress.

“We shouldn’t hold down great expectations for significant change,” Robert Reischauer, one of two public trustees of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds, said Tuesday.

“What we should probably do is tamp down the behavior that would make things worse,” he said, referring to six years of Republican attempts to undermine the law.

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Reischauer outlined his pessimistic outlook for the 2017 healthcare agenda at a panel hosted by the National Coalition on Healthcare. Without specifically predicting the outcome of the presidential race, the panel focused on a potential presidency of Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocratic debates are magnet for lobbyists NYT editorial board endorses Warren, Klobuchar for Democratic nomination for president Sanders v. Warren is just for insiders MORE, because the GOP nominee, Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSanders apologizes to Biden for supporter's op-ed Jayapal: 'We will end up with another Trump' if the US doesn't elect progressive Democrats: McConnell impeachment trial rules a 'cover up,' 'national disgrace' MORE, has said he would fully repeal the law.

Reischauer, the former president of the Urban Institute, said he projects more inaction next year, as Democrats won’t agree on ways to fix the healthcare law — in part because several are up for reelection in 2018 in traditionally red states.

He added that Republicans are unlikely to act because they wouldn’t be facing the blame for health insurance problems under a Clinton presidency.

“I doubt they're going to want to be seen as saving the Affordable Care Act from — what Donald Trump has said — that it’s going to collapse by itself,” Reischauer said.

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the conservative American Action Forum and the former director of the Congressional Budget Office, said he sees a strong need for changes to ObamaCare.

Those changes, he said, have to be broader than just pouring more money into subsidies for consumers or insurers.

“If you’re going to be successful at all, it has to be something deeper than just putting more money on the table,” Holtz-Eakin said.

But he’s not expecting any of those big changes to make it through Congress, in part because of the lack of conversations on the campaign trail: “I haven’t seen anything that suggest so far, that this is such a high priority.”

Joe Antos, a healthcare scholar for the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said the next Congress and the next White House would have the best shot of improving the law if they allowed insurers to strip down some of their plan offerings.

“The argument that we need to subsidize insurers more misses the point that they also need to have the flexibility to [offer] products to people,” he said, arguing that stiffer mandates are unlikely to drive more people into the exchanges.

“You have to loosen up on the required benefits,” he said.