Capitol Correspondence - 10.23.17

Bipartisan Efforts Fix to ACA On-Going in US Senate

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On October 19, Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) announced a list of 24 co-sponsors for their bipartisan effort to improve the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare. Senators Alexander and Murray lead the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, which oversees health care. They enlisted the support of 12 Republican and 12 Democratic Senators for their bill – see the full breakdown of cosponsors here and an explanatory chart of the bill here. This bill does not include changes to Medicaid.

Key Republican figures have been ambivalent towards the bill, stating they are still learning details about it. It is unclear whether Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell would bring it up for a vote and House Speaker Ryan expects opposition to the Alexander-Murray bill within his caucus. While the President initially showed moderate support for the bill he has since stated his opposition on Twitter, leading some Republican Senators to urge him to change his mind.

While the bill’s future is uncertain, it has the potential to remain alive until at least December. This is due to Democratic political leverage in upcoming Senate fiscal negotiations, notably around raising the debt ceiling in December so the government can remain operational.

ANCOR has been following the Alexander-Murray legislation because should it gain further traction, it could become a viable alternative for Members of Congress seeking to reform the ACA without affecting the Medicaid program. This is in contrast to the recent problematic Graham-Cassidy proposal, which contained proposals to block grant Medicaid – Senate GOP Leadership has not yet closed the door on the Graham-Cassidy despite its defeat in late September.