By Lyle Dennis, Cavarocchi – Ruscio – Dennis Associates, Consultants to AASLD
Last month, we described in this space the machinations that were just beginning to occur in the Senate intended to create legislation that would “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act. We described a series of tweets from Andy Slavitt, the former CMS Administrator, who predicted what happened last month with the bill – right up to the part where it did not have sufficient support to pass the Senate and had to be left to the future for consideration. The future is now!
When it became clear that the Senate would be unable to produce 51 votes for the bill (or 50 votes plus the Vice President breaking a tie), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pulled down the bill from consideration and the Senate adjourned for a ten-day Fourth of July “District Work Period,” as it is called in Washington.
As it is currently written, the bill, known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), raises many concerns for AASLD members and their patients:
- The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated that 22 million Americans will lose their coverage under Medicaid if the bill is enacted.
- The bill, in a round-about way, effectively eliminates coverage for pre-existing conditions.
- The BCRA repeals the prohibition on insurance companies creating annual and lifetime caps on policies.
- The repeal of the Prevention and Public Health fund will force huge cuts in many government programs, including removing twelve percent of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s budget.
As we mentioned last month, AASLD’s Annual Public Policy Agenda, which is written by your colleagues on the Public and Clinical Policy Committee and approved by your colleagues on the Governing Board, begins with this statement:
AASLD is committed to promoting liver health and well-being through the conduct of federally-supported and other research and training, and the provision and expansion of services to patients, both adults and children, regardless of ability to pay, for all liver diseases and disorders whether genetic, environmental or viral. (Italics added)
AASLD is tracking this legislation closely and is now calling on you to contact your Senators’ offices. It is simple to do: Call 202-224-3121 (the US Capitol switchboard) and ask for your senator’s office. If you do not know your senator’s name, tell the operator what state you are from and he or she will transfer you. The message is simple: Give your name (including that you are a physician or other health care provider), your address (so they know you are a constituent), and how you would like the Senator to vote.
By all appearances at this point, this legislation is going to strip health insurance from 20+ million Americans, causing serious damage and concerns to patients and the health care system. Virtually every provider organization, patient advocacy group, consumer group, etc. is doing the same thing. We appreciate you playing your part.