Senate’s Final Health Vote Tomorrow – Speak Up Now
A lot has happened in the U.S. Senate in the past few days with proposed repeals of the Affordable Care Act. Here is some context and explanation of what is expected to happen with health care legislation in the next day. Scroll to the bottom for phone number to make your voice heard!
The Senate voted affirmatively on the Motion to Proceed on the House-passed health reform bill that would repeal large parts of the Affordable Care Act and make dramatic cuts to the Medicaid program. The vote was 50-50, with Vice President Pence breaking the tie. Senators Collins and Murkowski joined all Democrats in voting against the motion. This vote started 20 hours of debate on the bill, split evenly between Republicans and Democrats. Senators are using this time to give health care speeches. So far, the Senate has voted down both the Senate’s version of “repeal and replace” – the Better Care Reconciliation Act – and their version of “repeal and delay” without a replacement. Both votes went down with a few Republicans joining Democrats in voting against. Once debate ends, likely sometime this afternoon, vote-a-rama will start. During vote-a-rama, Senators can bring forward an unlimited number of amendments on the bill, which will be voted on quickly. It is expected that Republicans will put forward some politically challenging amendments during this time. Democrats could use vote-a-rama to force Republicans to take a slew of unpopular votes (e.g. put forward amendments that would protect care for cancer, or put forward amendments to protect care for pregnant women). However, Senate Democratic leaders have stated that they will not bring forward amendments until Senate Republicans show their cards and put up their final bill, meaning that a final vote could occur quickly once debate ends. We expect that Senate debate will occur late into the night tonight, with a final vote on Friday.
Likeliest Path Forward:
We have heard that Republican leaders are trying to get a final vote on a “skinny” repeal of the Affordable Care Act. This proposal would repeal some of the tax penalties and taxes in the law. The proposal would likely strike the tax penalty on individuals who do not have health insurance (also known as the individual mandate) and reduce the tax penalty on employers who do not offer affordable coverage (also known as the employer mandate). These changes would cause health insurance premiums in the individual market to increase substantially. Senate Democrats asked the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office to score a plan that included the rumored provisions of the “skinny” repeal bill. That estimate projects that 16 million Americans would lose access to health coverage over 10 years – and 15 million of those would lose coverage next year in 2018. Any number of additional changes could be made before the final vote.
If the Senate manages to pass a health bill, there are two possible paths forward. Either the House could take up the Senate bill and pass the exact bill and send it immediately to the President’s desk for his signature, or House and Senate leaders could decide to conference the House-passed bill (which would result in 23 million Americans losing coverage) with the Senate-passed bill. The conference committee would likely produce compromise legislation between the two versions and result in, presumably, 16-23 million Americans losing access to health care. If leadership chooses this path, the final compromise bill would have to go back through both chambers for a final vote.
Senate Republicans have not produced a health reform proposal that would not result in millions of Americans losing their health insurance – which would impact thousands of kids in Colorado. At this point, the best outcome for Colorado kids likely would be that the Senate fails to pass any type of health care bill. The worst-case scenario, given where things are now, seems to be that a “skinny” repeal bill that raises insurance prices and jeopardizes coverage for millions of Americans is signed into law by President Trump. If the conference path is chosen, we will have additional opportunities to engage our lawmakers before the final vote in both chambers.
What You Can Do Now
Keep calling and emailing our Senators and House Representatives. Tell them not to support any proposal that increases the price of health insurance and jeopardizes health insurance coverage for millions of Americans.
Call both senators:
Sen. Cory Gardner: (202) 224-5941
Sen. Michael Bennet: (202) 224-5852
Look up your district here, then call your representative:
Rep. Diana DeGette: (202) 225-4431
Rep. Jared Polis: (202) 225-2161
Rep. Scott Tipton: (202) 225-4761
Rep. Ken Buck: (202) 225-5870
Rep. Doug Lamborn: (202) 225-4422
Rep. Mike Coffman: (202) 225-7882
Rep. Ed Perlmutter: (202) 225-2645