Republican senators are taking one last shot at dismantling the Affordable Care Act through a repeal-and-replace bill introduced by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Bill Cassidy (La.), Dean Heller (Nev.) and Ron Johnson (Wis.). Americans have overwhelmingly rejected repeal of the ACA and have said they want to move on to bipartisan solutions that strengthen the healthcare system and reduce costs, but Republicans are rushing this bill through the Senate before Sept. 30, when the Senate's ability to repeal the law through a majority vote expires. The effort to revive the ACA repeal sent activists and protesters to the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 19 where they heard from Democratic senators who are in opposition to the GOP bill.
The legislation, known as the Graham-Cassidy bill, would eliminate ACA subsidies to help people purchase insurance; it also would eliminate the individual mandate requiring people to have insurance, which would destabilize the individual insurance market. The bill would provide block-grant funding to Medicaid. The funding could be spent on any healthcare purpose with no requirement to offer low- and moderate-income people coverage or assistance.
Over time, the bill would redistribute funding to states that did not expand Medicaid at the expense of states that did. The bill also converts Medicaid into a per capita cap program, which would cap and cut the per-beneficiary funding for seniors, people with disabilities and families with children. Like past measures to repeal and replace the ACA, the Graham-Cassidy bill allows states to opt out of the essential health benefits coverage. That means that insurance companies can put limits—lifetime and annual—on the amount of care a person can receive.
Although the provisions put forth are similar to previous repeal-and- replace efforts, the massive Medicaid cuts and funding redistribution make this bill even worse than the ones that have come before.
Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has introduced legislation that would establish a federally administered national health insurance program. "Sen. Bernie Sanders' Medicare for All bill offers a path to guaranteed universal access to affordable, high-quality healthcare," says AFT President Randi Weingarten. "As a union of nurses and health professionals, we are solidly behind it. At the same time, it's critical that we continue to resist Donald Trump's attempts to sabotage the ACA. We must continue to take immediate steps to build upon our current system."
A vote is expected next week. One thing that AFT members can do is take action by contacting your U.S. senators and asking them to work together to hold down healthcare costs, not to deprive millions of Americans of healthcare coverage.