Since passage of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) in the House, all eyes have been on the Senate as they consider legislation to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). As you may have seen recently in the news, Senators returned home for their annual July 4th recess without passing legislation to repeal and replace the ACA. However, the Senate returns to Washington on July 10, and a vote on ACA repeal could happen within their first week of session.
Earlier this year, we published a blog post highlighting our efforts around the AHCA. Here is an update of the actions we have taken as the Senate considers their legislation:
1. The Senate bill
In June, Senate leadership released their draft legislation entitled the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA). In many ways, the BCRA is worse than the bill passed by the House. The BCRA would make drastic cuts to Medicaid coverage and benefits. It would change the essential health benefits rule, which would put people with diabetes at risk of being unable to get the care and services necessary to successfully manage their disease. The BCRA would also allow insurance companies to charge older Americans five times more than younger Americans for coverage. Finally, the BCRA would repeal the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which provides funding for proven prevention initiatives like the National Diabetes Prevention Program, and would be a drastic step backward for type 2 diabetes prevention.
Equally troubling was the Congressional Budget Office analysis of the Senate legislation. The CBO, a nonpartisan federal agency that provides legislative analysis, estimated that the BCRA would cause 22 million people to lose their insurance coverage over the next decade. The CBO analysis also projected increased premiums and deductibles for those Americas who rely on insurance coverage through the ACA’s marketplace exchanges.
2. Raising our voices on Capitol Hill and across America
After careful analysis, we determined that the Senate bill would negatively impact people with or at risk for diabetes. Prior to the scheduled vote in the Senate, we issued a statement expressing our opposition to the BCRA and urged all Senators to vote no. On June 26th, when CBO released its analysis of the bill, we joined 11 other patient organizations in a joint statement expressing our concern that this misguided legislation would cause 22 million Americans to lose health coverage in a decade. We also joined other leading healthcare organizations in a series of local events around the country to highlight the dangerous changes proposed in this legislation. We participated in town hall events in Cleveland, Ohio and Denver, Colorado to address how this bill would impact people in those states, and to urge Senators from those states to oppose the BCRA. You can read more about the Cleveland event here, and the Denver event here. Finally, we have continued to activate our advocates to contact their Senators and ask them to oppose the bill.
The day before the Senate was scheduled to debate their proposed bill, Association advocacy volunteers Gina Gavlak and Greg Paul joined volunteers from over a dozen other patient groups in Washington, D.C. to meet with their Senators and advocate for people with diabetes. Gina also appeared on a panel on the local CBS affiliate in Washington, D.C. to discuss how damaging the proposed legislation would be for people with diabetes. You can watch Gina’s interview here.
On June 27th, the same day that our volunteers met with their Senators, it was announced that a vote on the BCRA would be delayed. It was clear that the bill did not have enough support to pass the Senate and that our efforts made a difference in the decision to postpone the vote.
3. What happens next?
The Senate’s announcement to postpone the vote is a temporary victory–there will likely be a vote on the bill in July. Senators have announced their intention to continue negotiating the draft legislation until they have secured enough votes for passage. Recent news reports have indicated that they are working to hash out an agreement that could include harsh penalties for those who do not maintain continuous insurance coverage, and rolling back protections for those with pre-existing conditions like diabetes.
While the ACA is not perfect, it is imperative that our Senators do not rush through a proposal that would roll back the clock to a time when people with diabetes could be denied health care coverage or forced to pay outrageously high premiums.
This is why you, your family and your friends must continue to raise your voices and reach out to your representatives in Congress. Tell them what access to health care means to you. If you haven’t already, please sign up (and ask your networks to sign up) to become an advocate and stand up for health care for people living with diabetes—and all Americans.