Health Care Vote Delayed in Senate; Significant Threats Still Loom

By Suzanne Wikle

You could hear a collective sigh of relief late Tuesday afternoon when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that the Senate would not vote on the Republican leadership’s health bill this week, but instead revisit the vote after the 4th of July recess. While this is excellent news, it’s still too early to celebrate. Tuesday’s announcement is a temporary victory, but significant threats still loom when Congress returns from recess on July 10.

The Senate bill revealed last week, the so-called Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), was developed in secrecy and kept from the usual public and transparent process of committee hearings. The analysis by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office sheds light on perhaps why Senate Republican leadership was so coy about sharing details and having public hearings. The bill would cause 22 million Americans to lose health insurance, including 15 million from Medicaid by 2026.

Perhaps the meanest parts of the bill pertain to Medicaid, which provides health care to low-income children, adults with low-wage jobs that don’t offer benefits, nearly two-thirds of all seniors in nursing homes, and persons with disabilities. The Senate bill would end Medicaid as we know it by capping per beneficiary funding, cutting $772 billion in federal funding, and shifting significant costs to states. This would put coverage in jeopardy for those who depend the most on access to affordable care.

Furthermore, those with private health insurance—purchased through the Affordable Care Act’s Marketplace or through an employer—would face the threat of lifetime limits, possible denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions, and no guarantee that coverage would include prescriptions drugs, maternity care, mental health care, or many other essential health benefits.

Every single major health care group came out against this bill—a rare unified front for groups that often don’t see eye-to-eye. Several senators have rightfully indicated that it wasn’t time to move forward with a vote—the process hadn’t been transparent and the risks to their constituents are too great. We anticipate the next version of the bill to be considered after the recess will pose many of these same threats to their constituents. However, the BCRA cannot be repaired. Now is the time for the Senate to work in a bi-partisan manner to build upon the historic gains made under the Affordable Care Act—not strip away coverage from millions. We must keep up the effort to ensure no vote takes place that would roll back these gains.