The Senate bill to repeal and replace key Affordable Care Act (ACA) policies failed Tuesday, leaving home health agencies and providers across the care spectrum in wait-and-see mode as to the future of Obamacare reform efforts.
Released July 13, the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) struggled to gain needed traction among Senate Republicans. The GOP controls that house of Congress by a slim margin, meaning Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY, pictured above) could only afford to lose two votes among his party members. With four Republican Senators confirmed in their opposition to the bill as of late Monday, McConnell on Tuesday tried to push a different measure that would repeal the ACA without a replacement.
However, three Republican Senators—Susan Collins of Maine, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska—quickly opposed that plan as well.
Home health provider groups, including the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) and ElevatingHome, had previously come out against key components of the BCRA, saying that massive proposed Medicaid cuts of about $770 billion could be devastating to home- and community-based services (HCBS).
On Tuesday, ElevatingHome repeated its concerns over that bill and pushed its members to send a message to their Senators at this moment of uncertainty.
“ElevatingHOME opposes any legislative action that restricts access to care for vulnerable and home-based care patients,” the group stated in an update to its members. “As previously written, BCRA would negatively impact seniors, older Americans and people with disabilities and their health care providers. ElevatingHOME encourages our members to contact their Senators and let them know that reforming our health care system should not cut off those who need it the most.”
LeadingAge—an association representing nonprofit senior care providers, including HCBS providers—had a similar response to Tuesday’s developments.
“LeadingAge is pleased that the BCRA will not be considered in the Senate,” the group stated. “It’s clear that our collective voices have been heard through our extensive grassroots efforts. We will continue to oppose any efforts to cut or cap Medicaid.”
Republican Senators who opposed the BCRA did cite its huge Medicaid reductions as a sticking point, but McConnell and other leaders kept the cuts when they revised an initial version of the bill. Whether a future bill would address these Senators’ Medicaid concerns, or whether the GOP will take another stab at Obamacare repeal-and-replace legislation at all, remains an open question.
While it remains uncertain what action Senate Republicans will now pursue, President Donald Trump declared that the next move would be to “let Obamacare fail” in order to force a bipartisan effort at revamping the nation’s health care system. That appeared to be a veiled threat that his administration would undermine the viability of health insurance marketplaces created under the ACA, The Hill reported.
Meanwhile, shares in the nation’s largest publicly traded home health companies were down almost across the board on Tuesday. Kindred Healthcare (NYSE: KND), the largest home health provider, did buck that trend; its shares were up 0.67% as of market close.
Written by Tim Mullaney