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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

Senate Health Bill: Revised, Dead, Alive Again?

July 20, 2017 | ACA | Medicaid | Comments
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In a whirlwind week on Capitol Hill, the Senate health care plans have gone from revised to dead to alive again. As of this writing, GOP Senators are working together to bridge the divide between the party’s more moderate and conservative wings. It remains to be seen whether there are enough votes to pass the legislation, though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised a vote – on something – early next week.

 

HOW WE GOT HERE: A TIMELINE

Saturday evening: News broke that Senator John McCain (R-AZ) had had emergency surgery and would be recovering for a week in Arizona. With Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Rand Paul (R-KY) already publicly stating they would not support a motion to proceed to debate on the Better Care Reconciliation Act, Leader McConnell did not have the 50 votes needed to begin debate on the bill. It was announced on Sunday that the vote would be delayed until July 24.

 

Monday evening: Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Mike Lee (R-UT) jointly announced they would not support the motion to proceed. Senator Moran made headlines during the recent recess when he held town hall meetings and heard firsthand the impact the ACA had had on families in Kansas. That constituent outreach and advocacy, he said, pushed him to oppose the health care bill in its current form.

Leader McConnell, now officially short of votes to secure passage, pulled the Better Care Reconciliation Act entirely and moved to vote on a straight repeal of the Affordable Care Act, introducing a new bill called the Obamacare Repeal Reconciliation Act (ORRA). Citing Congress’ successful votes on the 2015 ACA Repeal bill, Leader McConnell said the Senate will vote on “a repeal of Obamacare with a two-year delay to provide for a stable transition period to a patient-centered health care system.”

 

Tuesday afternoon: Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) all announced they would vote against the motion to proceed on “repeal and delay.” While Senator Collins had voted against the similar 2015 measure, Senators Murkowski and Capito cited the dangerous impact such a strategy would have on the health insurance market and families throughout their states.

 

Wednesday morning: President Trump called on the Senate to “repeal failing Obamacare now and work on a new health plan that will start from a clean slate.” He also tweeted he would “let Obamacare fail and then come together and do a great healthcare plan. Stay tuned!”

 

Wednesday evening: With a vote scheduled for early next week and pressure building from the White House and conservative advocacy groups, GOP Senators in opposition or undecided status gathered together to hash out their differences. It remains unclear who attended that meeting and what policy points were discussed.

 

Thursday/Friday: Senators continue to negotiate on a strategy to move the bill forward. According to news reports, the Senate will hold a vote on a health care bill early next week. It remains to be seen whether that is a revised version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act, a modified version of the Obamacare Repeal Reconciliation Act, or something else.

On Thursday, the Congressional Budget Office released its score of the modified Better Care Reconciliation Act and projected 22 million Americans would lose insurance by 2026. It is important to note, this score projection does not include the Cruz amendment, which would likely be added as amendment during the voting process.

 

TAKE ACTION

To all those who have taken action this year on this issue, we say THANK YOU! Your advocacy is working and is changing the course of this debate… keep it up!

The Senate bill remains active and is not done yet! Advocates must stay engaged and keep calling on their Senators to protect Medicaid and preserve coverage for people with mental illness or addiction. Has your Senator openly opposed to remained undecided on this bill? Then reach out and thank them for their support. Urge them to stand strong and oppose these dangerous proposals! For others: keep calling 202-224-3121 with the message “Protect Medicaid! Vote ‘NO” no BCRA and ORRA!”