On June 22, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) released the draft "Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017" (BCRA), the Senate response to the House's "American Health Care Act" (AHCA) which was passed on May 4. (See WICs article, "Senate Health Care Bill Deepens the Cuts of the House AHCA," June 22, 2017.) To date, a CBO score has not been released on the bill. It is expected that the bill will be formally introduced early in the week, and following a Senate "vote-o-rama" (a process where dozens of amendments are introduced and quickly voted up or down), go to a full floor vote as early as Wednesday evening or Thursday.
The rapid pace is giving many Senators pause, including several solidly conservative Republicans. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) said he thinks that "holding a vote of this next week would definitely be rushed", and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) has concerns with the bill, and said it's hard for her to imagine the bill passing this week. A group of five Republicans, including Johnson, Ted Cruz (R-TX), Dean Heller (R-NV), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rand Paul (R-KY) have said they oppose the bill in its current form. Paul in particular has criticized the bill as not going far enough to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and characterized the BCRA as "Obamacare Lite". Several moderate Republicans have also expressed concerns about the bill, though not outright opposition.
As no Democrats are supporting the bill, the Republicans can only afford to lose two votes and pass the legislation. It is likely that 11th hour amendments will be offered to appease some of the holdouts as the bill moves to its final form late next week. If the Senate does pass a bill, it must then either be passed without changes by the House, or go through a process known as conferencing to develop a compromise bill that both chambers of Congress will pass. Given the high stakes surrounding the bill, and the decreasing probability that a bill will pass the longer it languishes, the most likely scenario is that the House would move to quickly pass the Senate's bill. However, the same objections that almost sunk the bill in the House may rise up again, particularly concerns from the most conservative House members that the bill does not go far enough to end the Medicaid expansion quickly, repeal taxes expeditiously, and ensure that no federal funds go to providers that perform abortion services.
ANCOR continues to encourage members to call Republican Senators daily to express deep concerns over the restructuring of Medicaid and the harm to the provision of vital services for people with disabilities if the BCRA were to become law. For more information on our advocacy efforts, including an online tool to use to find your Senators and a call script to use, visit www.disabilitysos.org.