While a series of announcements by Senate Republicans seem to indicate that for the time being attempts both to replace and repeal the ACA have stalled, AMA president David O. Barbe, MD, warned the battle to protect health care for Americans continues.
“The health reform debate is by no means over. Congress must begin a collaborative process that produces a bipartisan approach to improve health care in our country,” he said in a statement.
“The status quo is unacceptable,” he continued. “Near-term action is needed to stabilize the individual/nongroup health insurance marketplace. In the long term, stakeholders and policymakers need to address the unsustainable trends in health care costs while achieving meaningful, affordable coverage for all Americans.”
ACP joined AMA's call for bipartisan approach by sending a letter to the Senate urging its members to permanently abandon efforts to repeal and replace the ACA.
The insurance industry warned Senate leaders last week about its strong reservations to an amendment to the Senate bill introduced by Senator Ted Cruz, (R-Texas), in the plan introduced last week. This language would have allowed insurers to offer cheaper health care plans with fewer benefits, but in turn would have resulted in increased premiums for patients with more serious medical conditions, according to insurers.
In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, (R-Ky.), and Minority Leader Charles Schumer, (D-N.Y.), Marilyn B. Tavenner, the CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans, and Scott P. Serota, the president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, wrote that the amendment was “simply unworkable in any form and would undermine protections for those with pre-existing medical conditions, increase premiums and lead to widespread terminations of coverage for people currently enrolled in the insurance market.” The letter also suggested that Cruz’s amendment would leave “millions” of Americans without coverage.
With Senate Democrats united in their opposition to any bill that replaces the Affordable Care Act, Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) announced Monday they would not support the Better Care Reconciliation Act, joining Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who had previously said they would not vote to pass the legislation. This left McConnell without the majority needed to pass the Senate’s plan.
McConnell stated that the issue of health care reform is not over.
“I believe we must continue to push forward now. I regret that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failures of Obamacare will not be successful,” he said on the Senate floor this morning. “That doesn’t mean we should give up. We will now try a different way.”
McConnell indicated he would move forward with a motion to repeal the ACA without a replacement. A previous CBO assessment had estimated that repealing the ACA without a replacement in place would leave 32 million Americans without health care coverage.
However, later Tuesday, Sen. Collins, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) announced they would not support legislation to repeal the ACA without having a replacement in place.
“It’s time for the Senate to end — once and for all — the misguided effort to repeal the ACA’s essential coverage expansions and consumer protections, cap and cut Medicaid, and limit women’s access to essential health services,” Jack Ende, MD, MACP, president of ACP, wrote in the letter. “The Senate should instead commit to developing bipartisan legislation through regular order (including hearings and opportunities for organizations like ACP to offer our advice and expertise) to close gaps in coverage, increase insurer participation in the marketplace, and make premiums and deductibles more affordable without eroding existing coverage and consumer protections. We stand ready to lend our help in such an effort.” – by Janel Miller