Last week, Senate leadership released the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 (BCRA). Drafted in secret by a panel of 13 Republican Senators, this bill only slightly amends the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which passed the House in May. In fact, it still shares the same harmful policies–drastically cutting the Medicaid program and providing substantial tax breaks to the wealthy and to corporations.
This week, the independent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released an analysis (also known as a score of the BCRA. According to the CBO, the BCRA would result in 15 million more people being uninsured in 2018, which would increase to 22 million in 2026. The vast majority of these coverage losses stem from the bill slashing Medicaid funding by $772 billion by 2026, with additional cuts occurring in later years. Cuts of this magnitude would hamstring the program, leading states to scale back on care for millions of older adults and people with disabilities who rely on Medicaid to help them stay in their homes, to pay for nursing home care, and to gain access to basic services.
Senate leadership planned to hold votes and floor debate on the new bill this week, but these plans were upended on Tuesday when Republican leaders discovered they lacked the 51 votes needed to meet the “Motion to Proceed” threshold—a key vote to allow the bill to come to the floor. This shortfall forced the Majority Leader to delay the initial votes until after the July 4th recess, which means that the Senate will not take up the bill until the week of July 10th at the earliest. In the meantime, negotiations continue in the Senate to try to woo members to support the bill.
Ultimately, this bill cannot be fixed. No partisan negotiations can overcome the draconian cuts to Medicaid included in the BCRA. Backroom deals may be able to bring in the support of hesitant Senators, but this bill is harmful to its core, especially for the older adults and people with disabilities who we vow to serve.
The lives and health of millions of Americans are at stake. The Senate should scrap BCRA and start fresh with hearings, open debate, bipartisan ideas, and expert opinions. Most importantly, the Senate should keep the will and welfare of the American people at the forefront of any legislation on health care.
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