It has been an especially intense week for healthcare advocates watching to see if the Senate would successfully pass a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Despite Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) efforts to pass something before summer recess, the Senate voted down the Better Care Reconciliation Act to replace the ACA, and the so called “skinny repeal” bill, Senate Health Care Freedom Act.
The eight page Health Care Freedom Act would have repealed the individual and employer mandates, extended the moratorium on medical devise taxes, increased limits for health savings accounts, defund Planned Parenthood, and remove the Prevention and Public Health Fund. This would have been destructive to millions of Americans, and the CBO score showed that 16 million Americans would lose health coverage, while premiums would increase by 20% annually.
Nothing about this process was normal or followed the hundreds of years of procedural rules that our Federal Government has in place. In addition to removing the filibuster option and only requiring a simple majority to pass, the final bill to be voted on (the skinny repeal) was not even shared with Senators until late Thursday night. Voting finally took place late in the night, around 1am ET and the bill failed to pass with a “no” vote of 51-49. We are forever thankful to our Democratic Senators, and to Republican Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski who have opposed the process and bills since the dialogue started. We also thank Republican Senator John McCain for his “no” vote. While in a speech last night Senator McConnell tried to blame Democrats for the failure to repeal and replace the ACA, the reality is that he could not convince his own party to support this deeply flawed process for passing a policy that would harm millions of Americans and impact 1/5th of the country’s economy.
While we can take a breath of relief for now, it is crucial for healthcare advocates to stay vigilant and stay loud. There are still many ways for the Trump Administration to dismantle the Affordable Care Act through Federal Regulations. We must not lose the gains we have made. Now is the time for our leaders to reach across the aisle and find a way to strengthen the Affordable Care Act for all Americans.