Another Attempt to Repeal ACA Falls
A new Senate effort to pass a healthcare bill was voted down early Friday morning. The vote was for a bill that was released late Thursday evening to repeal parts of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare and the ACA.
The Health Care Freedom Act was released at 10 p.m. on July 27, and scheduled for a vote just 2 hours later. While in development the bill was called a “skinny repeal” because it focused on a few policies the GOP hoped its senators would agree on, rather than repealing the entire ACA. The legislation would have repealed:
- The requirement that individuals buy health insurance.
- The requirement that larger employers offer health coverage.
- The tax on medical device makers for 3 years.
- The use of Medicaid funds at Planned Parenthood for 1 year.
It also would have changed the way states are granted waivers to the certain requirements in the ACA.
Details on how these changes would work were not discussed as the bill marched to a vote. But the Congressional Budget Office estimated that 16 million fewer people would lose health coverage by 2026 if the bill went into effect, and premiums would be 20 percent higher than expected under the ACA.
The biggest reason for those estimates was the repeal of the law that requires people to buy health insurance. People who are healthy could then drop their insurance coverage without being fined. The cost to insurance companies would remain high because people with serious or chronic diseases like breast cancer would keep their insurance, but the price for their plans would go up because it would be spread among fewer people with more healthcare needs.
Many senators never intended for the “skinny repeal” bill to become law. Their goal was to use the bill to meet with members from the House of Representatives to write a new bill that both bodies would have to pass. But if the HCFA had passed, it was also possible for the House to approve it and send it to the president to sign into law. Politics website the Hill reported that Senators Lyndsay Graham, Bill Cassidy, Ron Johnson and John McCain asked House representatives to promise they would not approve it if the Senate passed it.
What Comes Next
Important questions remain over the future of health care in the US. The administration and Congress have not committed to pay subsidies to insurance companies that give assistance to people with low incomes. Insurers have said not knowing if they will be reimbursed or if the ACA will be repealed are reasons they have cancelled plans in many parts of the country next year.
Making sure people in every part of the country have health care options in 2018 may require action from the federal government, but President Donald Trump has said he may not do anything to keep the health insurance market healthy if it is not attached to a bill that repeals the ACA.
Republicans in Congress have said they are dedicated to repealing the ACA, and a renewed effort is always possible. But this last failed effort may be an opportunity for Congress to conduct a more traditional public process to write and pass a bill. Members of both parties have said they share these concerns with the current market for individual insurance plans:
- Many people are still without coverage.
- Premiums are too expensive.
- Plans have deductibles that are more than people can afford.
- Many rural parts of the country have few or no plans to choose from.
Living Beyond Breast Cancer will continue to watch the discussions in Washington D.C. and report how you may be affected by proposed changes.