Schakowsky Introduces Pair of Bills That Strengthen Affordable Care Act on Eve of 10th Anniversary

March 9, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC - Two weeks before the 10th anniversary of the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), Congresswoman Schakowsky, a Senior Chief Deputy Whip and Chair of the Energy and Commerce Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee, introduced two bills to lower health care costs and strengthen consumer protections for Americans who rely on the ACA to survive. The bills are H.R.  6135, the No More Narrow Networks Act and H.R. 6136, the Protecting Consumers from Unreasonable Rates Act.

“The raging coronavirus outbreak in the United States reminds us that ensuring universal health care for all is an urgent and critical priority. However, as the Congress considers legislation to move us closer to that goal, we must strengthen the system we have in place and ensure high-quality, affordable health care is available today,” said Congresswoman Schakowsky. “When we wrote the ACA, I knew our work wasn’t done. A decade after the passage of that historic legislation, I am proud to introduce a new bill to ensure consumers can access the care they need within their insurance network and to reintroduce a bill that would prevent consumers from paying for excessive, unjustified, or unfairly discriminatory premium increases.”

H.R. 6135 - No More Narrow Networks Act

  • This new bill directs the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to establish quantitative standards that ensure consumers have comprehensive access to health care within their insurance networks.
  • Though HHS issued final rules in March 2012 elaborating on the ACA requirements that all health care services can be accessed without “unreasonable delay,” there was no further clarification of what “unreasonable delay” means or what a sufficient number of providers is, leaving implementation and standards up to the states.
  • Though insurers argue that they craft narrow networks in exchange for lower premiums, this strategy has resulted in networks that often fail to provide meaningful access to timely, convenient, and high-quality care. Sometimes networks are so narrow that consumers have no choice but to seek out-of-network care for a certain surgery or to visit a specialist, resulting in an unexpected bill. 
  • This bill is critical to ensure more equitable and accessible health care. The new network adequacy standards established by the Secretary, which cannot preempt stronger standards in any state, could include (from Community Catalyst):
    • Allowing consumers to pay in-network rates for care that can only be obtained out-of-network;
    • Mandating the inclusion of essential community health providers in insurance networks to ensure timely access to health care for vulnerable populations; and
    • Establishing nondiscrimination provisions to ensure consumers have access to health care that is culturally and linguistically appropriate.

The No More Narrow Networks Act has been endorsed by Protect Our Care, Families USA, Consumer Watchdog, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and the Shriver Center on Poverty Law.

H.R. 6136 - Protecting Consumers from Unreasonable Rates Act

  • This bill, which Congresswoman Schakowsky has introduced for several years, would give HHS the authority to modify, deny, or approve premium rates. 
  • HHS data reveals that consumers benefit if they live in states where insurance regulators have authority to prevent unreasonable premium increases. Though the ACA provided grants to states to improve health insurance premium review, there is nothing in the law that empowers all states to modify premium increases. Unfortunately, in too many states, including Illinois, that authority is missing.
  • This bill is a commonsense solution that protects families and small businesses. President Obama originally included this policy in his health reform proposal, but it was not incorporated into the final bill that became law.

The Protecting Consumers from Unreasonable Rates Act has been endorsed by Consumer Watchdog, Protect Our Care, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and the Shriver Center on Poverty Law.