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Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

Senate to Craft New Health Reform Bill

May 11, 2017 | ACA | Medicaid | Comments
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Following the House’s narrow advancement of the American Health Care Act (AHCA), action on health reform now turns to the Senate. Many Senators have expressed concerns about AHCA, leading the upper chamber to begin drafting its own health reform proposal. The passage of a health reform package in the Senate is far from certain, giving advocates opportunities to weigh in and share their concerns.

Senate Process

The Senate will likely begin actively working on health care in early June after the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) releases a score for the American Health Care Act. Although health reform has made it through one chamber, a lengthy legislative process still lies ahead. The Senate’s consideration of health reform is anticipated to take months with multiple working groups drafting different proposals. Further, any bill that passes the Senate that is different from the text of the American Health Care Act would have to be reconciled through a Conference Committee – another legislative process that buys time for advocates to engage.

Working Groups

There are two major working groups in the Senate tasked with designing the upper chamber’s health reform legislation. The first health care working group consists of 13 Senators – many in leadership roles – to be led by Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). This group includes:

  • Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
  • John Barrasso (R-WY)
  • John Cornyn (R-TX)
  • Tom Cotton (R-AR)
  • Ted Cruz (R-TX)
  • Mike Enzi (R-WY)
  • Cory Gardner (R-CO)
  • Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
  • Mike Lee (R-UT)
  • Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
  • Rob Portman (R-OH)
  • John Thune (R-SD)
  • Pat Toomey (R-PA)

A second group of more moderate Senators has also formed, including:

  • Susan Collins (R-ME)
  • Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
  • Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
  • Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV)
  • Mike Rounds (R-SD)

The presence of multiple working group could signal a continuing divide within the majority party over the direction of health reform. Some Senators want to see a bill like the American Health Care Act, while others have indicated they want an entirely new bill that better protects people with pre-existing conditions and Medicaid funding. Unlike the House vote, Senate Republicans can only afford to lose 3 votes from within their party. No Democrats are expected to support a health reform package that repeals provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

Take Action: Unite4BH

The fight for health reform is far from over and your advocacy is working. In March, when enough advocates raised their voices against the AHCA, House leaders were forced to pull the American Health Care Act from the floor. Your outreach works and we need it today! Contact your Senators now and urge them to oppose the AHCA and any proposal that cuts funding for Medicaid.