Congress has left D.C. for the summer without passing legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or cut Medicaid. Leadership and rank-and-file representatives and senators on both sides of the aisle appear to be looking past the repeal fight that has embattled Congress for the past year and looking ahead toward efforts to stabilize the insurance market. Are these overtures of bipartisanship to be believed? Are the ACA and Medicaid finally safe? As always, it’s complicated.
At the end of July, health care supporters prevailed over lawmakers who sought to pass destructive legislation that would have stripped millions of people of their health coverage and cut Medicaid for seniors, children, and people with disabilities.
Our country owes much of this victory to advocates and constituents in key states who spent the past eight months organizing to protect our care from this harmful bill. Working with Families USA and other national partners, state consumer health advocates used an array of tactics that made an enormous contribution to the campaign to protect the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Medicaid. Through rallies, town halls, meetings, press and social media engagement, calls and letters to Congress, state-focused policy analysis, and other critical tactics, these state organizations raised public awareness of what was at stake and put pressure on lawmakers to oppose the harmful legislation.
When Congress returns to D.C. from August recess, they will dive right into work that presents both opportunities and threats for health care. As a result, September will be a good time for health care advocates and activists to engage with their elected officials to make sure they protect affordable health care.
Congress is back from summer vacation and has little time to waste on a packed September agenda. Legislative items on its plate this month include: passing a government funding bill and disaster relief; extending funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), community health centers, and other key health programs; addressing the debt ceiling; and pivoting to tax reform.
Additionally, key Republicans and Democrats have promised to come together to address affordability and stability in the marketplace. It’s going to be a very busy month.
Today, an important new phase begins in the seemingly endless debates over U.S. health care. For the first time in many years, a committee of the U.S. Congress – the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, aptly termed the “HELP” Committee—is holding open hearings in a bipartisan quest to find practical solutions that improve Americans’ access to affordable, quality health coverage and care.
One of the many must-do items on Congress’s agenda when it returns in September is something that should be easy: extending funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). If Congress doesn’t act to extend CHIP funding, health coverage for 9 million children will be in jeopardy.
What Congress must do to prevent millions of children from losing health coverage is clear: Pass a “clean” funding bill that extends CHIP funding for five years.
A growing number of states are using the waiver process to make fundamental changes to the Medicaid program. Many of these waivers set a dangerous precedent for the Medicaid program and affect the entire country, as other states seek to follow along adding features to their Medicaid programs that hurt the ability of people with low incomes to get the care they need.
We are facing an extraordinary volume of potentially harmful Medicaid waivers that are under review at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). While comment periods seemingly just closed for a slew of states (Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Iowa), two radical Section 1115 adult coverage waivers have now opened for federal comments: Maine and Utah.
As health equity advocates we share a fundamental vision of a nation where every single human being has an equitable chance to enjoy the best health possible, no matter who they are—including where they were born. For us, it is not about being on the left or right of the political spectrum. Equal access to good health is an intrinsically human value.
Update 9/21: The Senate could vote next week on Graham-Cassidy. Learn what you can do to stop it. The latest Republican repeal and replace plan may be the last, which is why the plan authored by Sens. Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy is picking up steam despite the threat it poses to state budgets and taxpayers.
The Graham-Cassidy bill would return us to the days when people with preexisting conditions could be denied essential benefits or charged so much that insurance would be out of reach. States would see major funding cuts and be forced to make impossible decisions, choosing which residents lose benefits or health insurance altogether.
The bill slashes both the ACA’s coverage expansion and basic Medicaid for seniors, people with disabilities, and children. Millions of middle-class families would lose the security of knowing that, whatever happens to their job, they will still have access to high-quality, affordable health coverage. The damage wrought by this radical plan would be widespread and significant.