This week the Senate’s efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have stalled, for now. Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that he was not going to move forward with a vote on the Senate’s health care reform proposal called the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA). This announcement came after two more (for a total of four) Republican Senators publicly declared that they would not support the bill. The four Senators are: Rand Paul (KY), Susan Collins (ME), Jerry Moran (KS), and Mike Lee (UT).
In response, McConnell suggested that the Senate would instead vote on a “repeal only” version of a bill to dismantle the ACA and that they would deal with replacing it later. They would give themselves two years to “deal with it,” as the repeal would not take effect for two years, which would also be after the next midterm election.
A true “repeal” of the ACA means that it would be like the ACA never existed, including the elimination of all of the ACA’s consumer protections, Medicaid expansion, some Medicare benefits, individual and employer mandates, and taxes. A similar bill was passed in 2015, but President Obama vetoed it. That bill was scored by the Congressional Budget Office in 2015, and it found that between 30 and 32 million people would lose access to health insurance coverage.
However, just hours after this decision to move forward with a repeal vote was announced, three Republican Senators (Shelley Moore Capito (WV), Susan Collins (ME) and Lisa Murkowski (AK)) said they would not vote for a bill that would irresponsibly take away coverage from millions of Americans, with no alternative. Their opposition to a repeal vote with no alternative means that it would be unlikely to pass if all Senate Democrats opposed the bill as well.
The President has also announced his support for a full repeal vote, suggesting that he will just “let Obamacare fail.” Unfortunately, we just don’t know what that means. It could mean that all federal agencies simply stop enforcing the consumer protections created in the law. It may also mean that the Department of Health and Human Services will stop paying for Americans to receive financial assistance to purchase health insurance.
After a meeting at the White House today, Leader McConnell has declared that he will call for a procedural vote to allow Senators to debate and offer amendments on the BCRA. Without further negotiating it is likely that the Senate will have to go back to the drawing board and come up with other proposals. Many have suggested that the Senate should go back to holding open hearings on these issues and to work together, in bipartisan efforts to improve our health care system. We will have to wait and see. Unfortunately, we are now only 3.5 months away from the start of open enrollment for 2018, and there is so much uncertainty.
One thing does seem certain, the efforts to provide accessible, affordable health care for all Americans must continue. If this is an issue that concerns you, you can keep talking to your elected officials about how important access to quality, affordable health insurance coverage is to the cancer community.
Do You Need Health Insurance Now?
If you do not have health insurance coverage, you can apply for Medicaid at any time if eligible, or buy a policy through the State Health Insurance Marketplaces if you qualify for a special enrollment period.
- For more information about how to choose a health insurance policy (including making choices between employer-sponsored options), watch our recorded webinar.
- If you aren’t sure what your health insurance options are or want to understand more about health insurance, visit CancerFinances.org.
Stay tuned to our blog, as we will continue to share ongoing developments in efforts to change our health care system.