With the two-week Congressional recess coming to an end, we wanted to give you a quick recap of district work period activity and a preview of things to come next week when Congress is back in session.
Members of Congress have been in their home districts for the last two weeks since their failed attempts to repeal the ACA and replace it with their own legislation, and they definitely got an earful from constituents. From moderate House Republican members like Rep. Mike Coffman to conservative House Freedom Caucus members like Rep. Raul Labrador, House Republicans faced angry constituents across the country on issues ranging from healthcare to taxes.
That said, the White House signaled over the recess their continued optimism in cobbling together support in Congress for a health reform deal, and House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows confirmed that these discussions had progressed. But though the White House was initially eager to try to build support for a bill and bring it up for a vote before the President’s 100 days in office mark next week, Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle poured cold water on that idea. ANA’s Government Affairs team has been in touch with key Congressional offices, and have learned that the legislative language could include state waivers that would allow states to opt out of the community rating and essential health benefits provisions. The community rating provisions, established under the ACA law, stops insurance companies from raising premiums based on an individuals’ health and would undermine protections for those with pre-existing conditions.
Since the final legislative language has not been made public, it’s unclear whether this compromise will move votes, and there are no updated whip counts on how individual House Republican members plan on voting for such a bill. House Republicans will hold a conference call tomorrow (Saturday, April 22nd) to discuss the way forward on a health reform bill.
On an even more pressing front, Congressional leaders have to pass a government spending bill by April 28th in order to avoid a government shutdown. There’s been discussion of passing a one-week funding stopgap, which would maintain current levels of funding for an additional week while Congress continues to negotiate a long-term deal. That said, the White House is insisting that a funding bill include moneys for a border wall, which Democrats have made clear is a non-starter, further imperiling talks. Next week will be a busy one on Capitol Hill, so be sure to stay informed with updates here at ANA’s Capitol Beat.
Medicaid is one of the most crucial pieces of the U.S. health care system and provides critical health care coverage to low-income, disabled, and elderly Americans as well as to low-income children. It pays for nearly half of all births in the nation, and is the largest payer of long-term services and supports such as nursing home care and home and community-based services. Medicaid is also the largest single payer for behavioral health services, including mental health and substance use disorder treatment. Medicaid plays a major role in the treatment and prevention of chronic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease; Medicaid recipients and uninsured individuals have a higher prevalence of chronic disease than the population at large.
These impacts have grown with Medicaid expansion. Since the Affordable Care Act expanded eligibility to childless adults with monthly income up to 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, 11 million more Americans now have access to comprehensive health care coverage. These individuals now have a means by which to treat and manage chronic conditions and comorbidities, to receive care that enables them to stay in their homes and communities, to seek treatment for debilitating mental health and substance use disorders amidst the raging opioid crisis, and to bring healthy babies into the world. Medicaid expansion has driven down hospitals’ uncompensated care costs, allowing them more resources to treat patients. (See ANA’s recent Health Policy piece on this subject). Medicaid expansion has also figured prominently in policy debates at both the national and state levels. Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike cited Medicaid expansion as reasons for their opposition to the ultimately failed American Health Care Act.
Medicaid expansion has moved the U.S. health care system toward achieving the American Nurses’ Association’s (ANA) core principles of health care reform: universal access to a standard package of essential health benefits for all citizens and residents; utilization of primary, community-based and preventative services while supporting the cost-effective use of innovative, technology-driven, acute, hospital-based services; the economical use of health care services with support for those who do not have the means to share in costs; and a sufficient supply of a skilled workforce dedicated to providing high quality health care services.
Despite a major legislative setback, discussions around health care reform and the future of the Medicaid program continue. ANA is committed to preserving the coverage gains made in recent years. ANA will continue to provide our members with all new developments on health care reform and the Medicaid program.
Following their failure to hold a vote on the misguided American Health Care Act (AHCA), congressional Republicans now head into a two-week recess with more questions than answers. Despite continuing negotiations with the House Freedom Caucus, the basic dynamic hasn’t changed: for every vote Republicans pick up from the conservative wing of their House caucus, they lose votes from their moderate wing. And the reason for their continued failure hasn’t changed: the AHCA is a fundamentally flawed bill that would cause millions to lose health coverage by cutting Medicaid and taking away essential benefits.
Even worse, proposed concessions made by Vice President Mike Pence could undermine protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and lead to states allowing insurance companies to charge sick people more for coverage than healthier individuals, to name just two possible outcomes.
Republicans’ persistence and the AHCA’s shortcomings underline the importance of the next two weeks. As is customary for recess periods, Members of Congress from across the country will be holding town halls to hear directly from their constituents. Now more than ever, it’s imperative that lawmakers understand that a majority of voters are opposed to the AHCA and similar efforts to make Americans less healthy.