Health Care Summit Defines the Path Forward

After 6 hours of bipartisan discussions at the White House Summit on Healthcare Reform last week, little in the way of major concessions were made by either political party in the effort to reform the nation’s health care system, according to a press release from the National Association for the Advancement of Orthotics and Prosthetics (NAAOP). But the congressional path to an up or down vote on reform materialized in the wake of the 6-hour meeting last Thursday. Negotiations at this level have virtually nothing to do with the immediate agenda of orthotics and prosthetics, but the overall bill, if it is enacted, will most assuredly impact the O&P profession.

There are several provisions in the House and Senate health reform bills that impact the O&P field that NAAOP is closely monitoring. First is inclusion of orthotics and prosthetics in the basic benefit package that all private health plans must offer, as well as proposals to adjust Medicare fee schedules for O&P based on “productivity.” Both of these issues are in play as Congress continues to consider legislation.

But the big news of the week was the decision by President Barack Obama to endorse passage of a comprehensive insurance reform bill rather than a smaller, less controversial version of health reform. The main driver of this key decision was the realization that far more Americans need to be in the insurance pool if Congress is to completely re-write the rules of insurance to eliminate pre-existing conditions and annual and lifetime caps in benefits.

This one decision means that Obama is “all in” on health reform and the ultimate outcome of this debate and congressional vote will largely define his presidency. He clearly intends to attempt to garner the votes of at least a few Republicans in the process, but whether he can achieve this is highly suspect. The chances of attracting Republican support decrease with the likelihood that Congress will attempt to enact changes to the Senate-passed reform bill through a process known as “reconciliation” which only requires 51 votes in the Senate, rather than a filibuster-proof majority of 60 votes.

So the irony of the bipartisan health reform summit is that it galvanized the approach of Congressional leaders to use a partisan process to enact health reform legislation that only Democrats favor. And despite appearing to settle on a specific strategy and timeline for the reform votes (by the Easter Congressional recess), it is not at all clear whether the House or Senate has enough support to ultimately pass health reform legislation in its current form.

As more details emerge, NAAOP will continue to relay developments, especially as those developments impact the field of orthotics and prosthetics, they said.

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