ACA Repeal Vote Failed
The Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act was stalled on July 28, when a 1:30am vote failed to receive the required 50 Senate votes (a 51-vote majority would then be achieved with Vice President Mike Pence casting a tie-breaker vote). Three Republicans voted No: Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, and Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
This vote was important, but it’s not the end of the attempts to repeal the ACA. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could call another repeal vote at any time if he believes he has secured enough votes. The Senate is currently on vacation for the month of August, so no votes will take place until at least after Labor Day.
Bipartisan efforts to stabilize the health insurance markets and to improve the ACA seem to be in the works, which looks like good news.
Unfortunately, even though repeal legislation has so far been defeated, the Trump administration continues to threaten ACA enrollees by refusing to commit to paying Cost-Sharing Reductions, federal subsidies that help the lowest-income families access lower deductibles and copays, so they can actually afford to use their health insurance.
Stopping these payments will raise premiums for all ACA plans by up to 20% starting next year, insurers say. Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller said insurers have notified her of their intent to raise premiums 20.3% in 2018 if CSR payments do not continue. Low-income families would see their deductibles increase by thousands of dollars.
Pennsylvania Medicaid at Risk: HB59
At the state level, HB59 threatens to cut benefits and coverage for adult Medicaid participants in Pennsylvania. The bill has passed the House once, but it was recently amended in the Senate. It now goes back to the House for a final vote. If the House approves this version, it will be sent to Governor Wolf.
Since the bill makes changes to the Human Services Code, it must be passed in order to pass the annual budget. Legislators who may normally oppose the bill likely feel pressured to vote for it in order to pass the budget.
If passed, HB59 would cut many benefits from the adult coverage package, including prescription drugs, vision, and dental. It would cut services that people with disabilities or people who are elderly depend on to maintain independence, like physical or occupational therapy and personal care. These cuts would apply to all adults, even senior citizens and people with disabilities.
HB59 would cut Medicaid eligibility in Pennsylvania by implementing an unnecessary work requirement, introducing new premiums, and restricting consumer choice of Medicaid managed care plans. Most people on Medicaid already work. Those that don’t are in school, job training programs, caregivers for children or elderly parents, or are looking for a new job. Requiring county staff to constantly verify minimum employment hours creates unnecessary red tape.
Call your PA House representative today and tell them to vote NO on HB59! Cutting vital Medicaid services won’t raise revenue.
About the Author
Cassie Narkevic is a Health Care Navigator at Consumer Health Coalition.