The Senate plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act effectively died Monday, as four GOP Senators announced opposition to the bill. In response, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell now says he will bring a repeal-only bill to the floor in the coming days. According to the Congressional Budget Office, such a move would be disastrous:
It’s unlikely the repeal path will succeed. Senators Murkowski, Capito and Collins have all said they will oppose a motion to start debate on the repeal bill, already denying McConnell the 50 votes necessary to move the bill. Rob Portman has expressed strong concerns that the approach causes too much uncertainty, but hasn’t yet committed to voting no. Governor Kasich, for his part, signed onto a letter with a bipartisan group of 11 governors opposing the repeal and replace later approach.
The latest effort is to work out a deal on Medicaid with Senate moderates. There is also strong pressure being applied to moderates like Portman from conservative groups that tend to fund their campaigns, so we are by no means out of the woods.
While larger health reform efforts have been unsuccessful, the House budget resolution for the upcoming fiscal year offers an alternative path to the same outcome. The House plan would cut $1.5 trillion from Medicaid, change it into a block grant and end expansion – a more severe proposal than anything in either the House or Senate plans. The GOP caucus may be unable to reach middle ground on this plan, but one way or another they want to find a way to make deep cuts to Medicaid in order to pay for tax cuts. Stay tuned to the budget process.
The future of healthcare is also on the minds of lawmakers here in Ohio and activists will need to continue to pay attention at the state level to prevent massive loss of health coverage.
First, lawmakers still have hopes of thinning the ranks of Medicaid enrollees through the so-called “Healthy Ohio” program, which would require low-income Ohioans to pay into health savings accounts or risk losing Medicaid. The measure was vetoed by Governor Kasich, but the House voted to override the Governor earlier this month. The Senate is taking the summer off, but could join their House colleagues in an override vote as early as mid-August. For more on the veto override process, see our earlier blog post.
Beyond the budget, a number of other bills currently pending in the Ohio Statehouse reflect the ongoing debate over the future of the Affordable Care Act:
Neither of the measures have made it out of committee, but are a sure sign that no matter what happens in Congress, Ohio lawmakers have the capacity and willingness to act unilaterally to deny healthcare to thousands if they so choose.
For their part, Ohio Democrats have introduced legislation to dramatically reshape Ohio’s healthcare universe. Senate Bill 91, sponsored by Senators Mike Skindell and Charleta Tavares would establish a single-payer healthcare program, available to all state residents, including the homeless and migrant workers. The bill has only had a single hearing in the Senate Insurance and Financial Institutions committee.
As advocates for universal, affordable healthcare, we must pay attention not only to Congress, also developments at the state level, staying in constant touch with state lawmakers.
For the latest information on legislation moving at the Ohio Statehouse, sign up for updates from the relevant committee that a bill is assigned to, and stay tuned to IO’s legislative alerts to find out if they begin to move forward.