As Bipartisan Health Care Talks Occur, GOP Taps Two to Reform Medicaid
Health reform deliberations continued in the Senate this week amongst not only the leadership tapped group of Republicans, but also among a more moderate group of GOP legislators and Democrats. Reports from Capitol Hill indicates the August recess as a deadline for legislation to be passed out of the Senate. However, much remains to be seen on where and how a majority group will emerge. National Council advocates are encouraged to remain diligent in their outreach and advocacy.
BIPARTISAN DISCUSSIONS ON HEALTH CARE
At least three moderate Democrats held initial meetings with their Republican colleagues to discuss changes to the health care law this week. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) organized the meeting that brought together Democratic Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN).
Additional Republicans in attendance included: Senators Dean Heller (R-NV), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV). No legislator in attendance spoke to the specific meeting content but did stress the importance of bipartisan negotiations when reforming the American health care system.
“The [GOP] language is, ‘This is spiraling out of control.’ I don’t believe that,” Senator Heitkamp told POLITICO. “But I also think that I came here to repair the health care law and make it more workable, and that’s my job.”
SENATORS PORTMAN AND TOOMEY TACKLE MEDICAID
Two members of the Senate leadership’s health care working group have reportedly been tapped to lead efforts to reform Medicaid. Representing different wings of the Republican caucus, Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) have begun work to craft a Medicaid reform package that would earn the support of a majority of Senators – likely to be comprised exclusively of Republican legislators.
According to reports, Senator Portman is proposing an extended phase out of the Medicaid expansion over five years, starting in 2020. This would be a more gradual phase out process than what is in the House bill which would freeze enrollment beginning January 1, 2020. The National Council is opposed to proposals that repeal or phase out the Medicaid expansion as persons with mental illness or substance use disorders were the largest beneficiaries of health care coverage through expanded Medicaid.
Senator Toomey, representing the more conservative wing of the Republican caucus, is proposing new spending caps on Medicaid to be capped at the rate of inflation, a figure that typically grows slower than medical inflation. Again, this approach deviates from the House passed version of the bill. The National Council is opposed to restricting or capping the Medicaid program and will continue to voice its opposition throughout the health care reform process.
As negotiations continue, it is imperative that advocates continue to speak out and engage with their legislators on this topic. For resources and calls to action, please visit the National Council’s Unite4BH webpage. Advocates can and should call their Senators, write them letters, book meetings, author op-eds in the local paper. Need help? Let us know!