Lawmakers Consider Options on Health Care After “Skinny” Repeal Failure
Amid last week’s failed Senate health care vote, members of Congress continued to weigh potential paths forward on the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). While it remains unclear exactly what shape the next health reform proposal will take, there appears to be bipartisan support for a measure that addresses stabilizing the individual insurance market in the immediate future. Neither chamber is expected to vote on any major health care measure before September.
Senate Efforts Stall
Prior to the Senate’s failed effort to pass a “skinny” repeal, Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced that the Senate would stay in session for an additional two weeks during the August recess. Media speculation indicated this extra time would be used to pass a final health care bill, but Senate leadership has since made clear that a second vote is not imminent. Majority Whip Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) told reporters what to expect over the next couple weeks, “What we do know is next is nominations and hopefully Sen. [Charles] Schumer will agree to break the logjam … and that would be a good use of our next two weeks.”
At this time, the Senate’s path to 50 votes remains unclear, likely steering Senate leaders away from health care legislation for the near future. Senators Collins (R-ME) and Murkowski (R-AK) remain steadfast in their opposition to sweeping ACA repeal and Medicaid funding cuts and Senator McCain (R-AZ) has returned home to Arizona to begin cancer treatments. Without these three votes, the Senate cannot reach the needed 50 vote threshold to pass a health care bill.
Bipartisan Health Talks Begin on Capitol Hill
In the House of Representatives, a bipartisan legislative caucus named the “Problem Solvers” caucus formally unveiled a proposal Monday that aims to immediately stabilize the insurance market. The proposal involves funding the cost-sharing reductions (CSR) for insurers selling health plans on the exchanges, creating a stability fund, repealing the device tax, weakening the employer mandate, redefining “workweek,” giving states more flexibility and allowing insurance to be sold across state lines.
In the Senate, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee – Sens Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) respectively –announced this week they will hold bipartisan hearings the first week of September to examine how to stabilize and strengthen the individual insurance market.