Progress on health care reform by Senate Republicans came to a halt very early this morning as the so-called “skinny repeal” of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) narrowly failed 49-51. All Democrats were joined in their opposition by Republican senators Susan Collins (Maine), John McCain (Arizona) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska).
While Collins and Murkowski’s votes came as no real surprise, the GOP hope was for McCain to allow the bill to proceed to an expected conference committee for further work. But in McCain’s statement explaining his decision, he mentions the lack of complete certainty provided by House Speaker Paul Ryan that the bill wouldn’t be voted on as-is and passed by the House instead – as well as his opposition to voting on what he considered to be a “shell of a bill.”
Essentially, this outcome means the only path to reform now would appear to be a bipartisan approach, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Kentucky) alluded to in his remarks following the defeat.
Indiana’s Democratic senator, Joe Donnelly, has been pushing for this path all along and reiterated those thoughts after today’s vote:
“I still believe that by working together we can improve our health care system and, at a minimum, Congress and the administration should do no harm to the millions of Americans’ whose health and economic well-being are at stake. I share the frustration of Hoosiers and Americans who are tired of partisan proposals that fail to address issues with our existing health care system and the continued legislative uncertainty that is undermining the insurance markets.
“We should do the hard and necessary work to gather the input of doctors, nurses, hospitals and patients, and work in a bipartisan manner to make coverage more affordable and accessible for Hoosier and American families.”
Of note: Donnelly attended a dinner Wednesday evening with a bipartisan group of senators to discuss ways to work together on health care. In May, Donnelly also had a similar meeting.
Our junior senator, Todd Young, voted for the “skinny repeal” bill as “another step towards relieving Hoosiers and millions of Americans from the burdens of Obamacare. Too many Hoosiers have been left with too few options and rising costs. It is more important than ever that we keep our promise to them and fundamentally reform our health care system.”
Like Donnelly, Young is eager to strengthen the ACA and work in a bipartisan fashion to get that done.
“Going forward, I will participate in hearings in the HELP (Health, Education, Labor and Pensions) Committee and continue to work with my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, to come up with a solution that provides long-term stability to our health care system and gives each and every Hoosier the opportunity to access quality and affordable insurance.”
Additionally, Young has previously looked for ways to find common ground. In the spring, he sent a letter to all Democratic senators urging them to share their views on what’s working and what’s not with the ACA.
Indeed, there are aspects of the ACA that both Democrats and Republicans have acknowledged as problematic; the medical device tax, which needs to be permanently repealed, is among them. So hopefully these areas can serve as a starting point for crafting a bipartisan solution.
From the Indiana Chamber’s perspective, the reality is that the ACA has not made life easier or costs cheaper for businesses (or many Hoosiers).
Separately, the ACA’s pending collapse – with insurers pulling out – isn’t surprising based on its inherently flawed assumptions. Unfortunately, very little of the congressional debate so far has focused on shoring up the ACA at its core, or how to put forth a replacement program that is stronger foundationally. Hopefully, that will occur in future discussions.