Hospital Groups, Public Health Officials: Senate Obamacare Repeal Bill Makes “Unsustainable” Cuts To Coverage

Image courtesy of Michael Kappel

After reviewing the Senate bill to gut and replace much of the Affordable Care Act, groups representing the nation’s hospitals believe that this legislation will leave millions — particularly those with chronic ailments and the disabled — without access to care.

American Hospital Association President Rick Pollack is urging the Senate to “go back to the drawing board” and draft a healthcare bill that “continues to provide coverage to all Americans who currently have it.”

Of particular concern to the AHA, which represents around 5,000 hospitals nationwide, is the bill’s long-term cuts to Medicaid. The Senate bill, officially known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act, allows the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid to continue through 2021, but then makes drastic budget reductions to the entire program.

“The Senate proposal would likely trigger deep cuts to the Medicaid program that covers millions of Americans with chronic conditions such as cancer, along with the elderly and individuals with disabilities who need long-term services and support,” explains Pollack in a statement. “Medicaid cuts of this magnitude are unsustainable and will increase costs to individuals with private insurance.”

Similarly, the Federation of American Hospitals, which represents around 1,000 investor-owned healthcare providers, called for the Senate to “hit reset” on this legislation, arguing that the current version of the Senate bill would require “critical revisions” to “ensure Medicaid remains a viable program because it is essential to our most vulnerable neighbors.”

Dr. Georges Benjamin, Executive Director of American Public Health Association — an organization that represents public health officials nationwide — says the Senate bill as it currently stands “would devastate the Medicaid program, our nation’s health care safety net on which 69 million low-income Americans and people with disabilities — including 37 million children — rely.”

In addition to the proposed Medicaid cuts, the Senate follows the Trump administration’s budget guidance to eliminate the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which accounts for a significant portion of the budget for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Fund provides hundreds of millions of dollars each year in federal financial support to a variety of otherwise underfunded state and local public health concerns, like Alzheimer’s research, diabetes prevention, heart disease prevention, anti-smoking initiatives, immunization, along with scientific support for state and local officials to detect and respond to outbreaks.

“The process by which the Senate has arrived at this bill amounts to legislative malpractice,” says Benjamin. “The Senate is supposed to be our great deliberative body. Instead, Senate leaders created a plan in secret with no hearings, no debate and no public input. It makes no sense to cut investments in America’s health in order to cut taxes for Americans with wealth.”

The predicted impact on Medicaid funding and enrollment, along with other affects on private insurance accessibility and premiums, won’t be known until the Congressional Budget Office releases its report on the Senate bill early next week. However, Republican leadership has let it be known that it intends to have a floor vote on the resolution before the Senate breaks for its 10-day July 4 recess.