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Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

Senate Health Care Vote Delayed Until After July 4 Recess

June 29, 2017 | ACA | Medicaid | Comments
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On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced that he will not hold a vote on the Senate’s health care bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BRCA), this week and will instead wait until after the weeklong July 4 recess. McConnell and others are continuing to work quickly to gather the 50 votes needed to pass a bill that guts Medicaid funding by $772 billion over ten years and ends Medicaid expansion. Now is the time for advocates to enhance their efforts while Senators are home during recess to pressure them to “vote NO” on the Better Care Reconciliation Act.

Senate Negotiations Continue

During the weeklong recess, Republican Senate leaders hope to convince key swing votes – including Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Rob Portman (R-OH), Dean Heller (R-NV), Shelley Moore Capito (R-KY), and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) – to support the bill. This moderate group of Senators have voiced concerns about the extent of Medicaid cuts in the bill and their impact on current efforts to address the opioid epidemic. Some conservative Senators like Rand Paul (R-KY), Jerry Moran (R-KA), and Ron Johnson (R-WI) have been reluctant to support the bill for different reasons, arguing that bill does not go far enough in repealing the Affordable Care Act. Other potential swing votes include Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA).

Opioid Funding

In an effort to win over Senators from states hit hard by the opioid epidemic, the White House and Senate leadership announced their intent to add a $45 billion opioid addiction treatment fund to BRCA. The National Council rejects any proposal to substitute grant-based opioid treatment for Medicaid coverage. Not only does this $45 billion fund fall far below the amount needed to address the nation’s opioid crisis, grant-based health care denies individuals struggling with addiction the right to integrated treatment and coverage for substance abuse-related conditions such as Hepatitis C, diabetes, heart and liver disease and more.

Republican Governors Speak Out

Addiction advocacy groups are not the only ones speaking out against substituting opioid grants for Medicaid coverage. Ohio Governor John Kasich told Politico that allocating a few billion dollars per year toward substance abuse services while also cutting many billions of dollars more in Medicaid coverage is “like spitting in the ocean.” Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has also criticized the Senate’s health care bill saying it would force his state to cut Medicaid coverage. Chairman of the President’s Opioid Commission and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has previously acknowledged the positive impact of the ACA’s expanded Medicaid coverage for drug abuse treatment. In his January 2017 State of the State address, Christie said “When I expanded Medicaid eligibility in New Jersey by executive order in 2013, it created a sea change in the availability of drug treatment for the poor in New Jersey.”

Take Action Today

The Senate’s delayed vote is a sign of your successful outreach and advocacy, but the fight to save Medicaid is not over. The Senate is still gearing up for a vote on the Better Care Reconciliation Act, so NOW is the time to expand your efforts to urge your Senators to “vote NO” by booking meetings, making phone calls and/or writing letters during the Congressional recess. For a quick guide on how to contact your Senators, visit the Unite4BH page today! Questions? Contact Michael Petruzzelli at michaelp@thenationalcouncil.org.