Capitol Correspondence - 07.10.17

Uncertainly Swirls Around Health Care Bill as Congress Returns from Recess

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Congress returned from its 10-day July 4th recess today. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) does not appear to be closer to an agreement with his party’s remaining holdouts on the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) than he was before the recess. There are currently ten Republican Senators who have said that they oppose the bill as written, whose stances have not softened over the recess. There are dozens more who have not committed to a position in favor or opposed. The bill can only lose two votes and still pass. Over the break, constituents showed up along parade routes, at town halls, and in Senators’ in-state offices, vocally opposing the BCRA, many focused on the deep cuts to Medicaid contained in the bill. 
Prior to the recess, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) proposed an amendment that would permit insurers to offer plans that did not contain the essential health benefits (EHBs) required in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), so long as other options including EHBs were also offered. This amendment was offered as a compromise to gain support among more conservative members. The Cruz amendment was sent to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) for scoring, to determine its impact on the overall cost and coverage implications on the bill. The most recent CBO report estimated that the BCRA would result in $772 billion spending reductions to Medicaid over ten years and 22 fewer people with health coverage. A supplemental CBO report that looked at the 20-year impact showed a 35% reduction in Medicaid spending over two decades. 
Though Leader McConnell still wants to put a bill up for a vote in the near future, prior to the month-long August recess, other Senators have expressed doubts about the viability of the BCRA and have started talking about looking to bipartisan solutions that would stabilize the individual insurance market, fixing rather than repealing the ACA. Several sticking points to ACA repeal continue to be changes to the protections for those with preexisting conditions, pulling back on federal funding for the Medicaid expansion, and lack of controls to keep premiums from increasing significantly. 
ANCOR members should continue to keep up advocacy for the next several weeks as lawmakers continue to work on health care reform. Watch your email for regular action alerts and visit for all the latest information and resources.