Federal Health Care Recap and Update

Congressional Republicans attempted for months to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. To date, these efforts have failed because the public overwhelmingly rejected the damaging core features that all their proposals had in common, including:

  • Taking health care coverage away from tens of millions of Americans
  • Raising premiums and deductibles for millions more
  • Gutting Medicaid for seniors, kids, and people with disabilities
  • Using health care cuts to pay for billions of dollars in tax cuts for the wealthy, pharmaceutical companies, and other corporations

But the fight isn’t over. Republican leadership continues to negotiate behind the scenes to identify a path toward repeal and replace, including discussions of the health care plan authored by Senators Bill Cassidy and Lindsey Graham. The Cassidy-Graham proposal retains most of the concerning features, including eliminating subsidies that make coverage affordable for low- and middle-income families, ending Medicaid Expansion, and cutting hundreds of billions in Medicaid funding to the states. These changes would lead to millions more uninsured, just like the previous attempts at repeal and replace.

In addition to keeping track of the Cassidy-Graham legislation, there are also other threats and opportunities related to health care to watch out for:

2018 Budget. The proposed 2018 House budget resolution, if passed by the full House and Senate, would require $200 billion in cuts to entitlement programs over 10 years, including cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. Since they plan to use a particular expedited process called reconciliation, this would allow Republican members of Congress to push these cuts through both the House and the Senate without any support from Democrats because it will only require a simple majority vote.

Bipartisan Working Groups. Some signals suggest that Congress has moved past a massive repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and will now focus on coming up with bipartisan solutions. Beginning in early September, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee will hold a series of hearings to discuss options to “to stabilize and strengthen” the individual health insurance markets. Unlike other recent attempts to pass health care legislation, the HELP committee has pushed for a transparent and bipartisan process. They have agreed to hear from health policy experts, including state insurance commissioners, patients, and insurance industry representatives, as well as senators on other committees.

Meanwhile the Problem Solvers Caucus, comprised of around 40 House Republicans and Democrats, has been discussing options to stabilize the marketplace. A short description of their proposal can be found here. Another bipartisan group from the Senate, including several former governors, has also begun meeting.

There is still pressure from some conservative lawmakers to continue with the efforts to repeal and replace the ACA. But we are encouraged that so many in Congress have acknowledged the need for bipartisan solutions that will stabilize the insurance marketplace, protect Medicaid, and actually help make health care more affordable. It’s critical for Congress to listen to the will of the people and focus on coming up with bipartisan solutions that will keep coverage affordable and keep millions of Americans insured.