Healthcare Lobbyists Cheer 'Skinny Repeal' Defeat

John Commins, July 28, 2017

The narrowly defeated bill had been strongly condemned by key physician, hospital, and health insurance interest groups, and they made known their pleasure at its demise shortly after Friday’s early morning vote.

The sense of relief was palpable in the statements issued by key healthcare sector lobbies in the hours after the Senate narrowly rejected another attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

The surprise “no” vote of Sen. John McCain, R-NV, doomed the so-called “skinny repeal,” which failed early Friday morning on a 49-51 vote. McCain and Republican colleagues Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska joined unanimous Senate Democrats to vote against the bill.

The bill had been strongly condemned by major physician, hospital, and health insurance sector lobbies in the days and hours leading up to the vote, and they made known their pleasure at its demise shortly after the early morning vote. They also pledged to work with Congress and the Trump administration to improve the Affordable Care Act, and urged them to act quickly to stabilize health insurance markets.

“The Senate’s vote provides not a victory for one side or a loss for the other, but rather a new opportunity to reset and regroup,” said Rick Pollack, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association. “Working together, both parties in both chambers should utilize this opportunity to fix the very real problems facing our health care system. The result this morning shouldn’t mark the conclusion of the debate but should serve as a catalyst to restart it in a bipartisan manner.” 

“Ultimately, any changes to the Affordable Care Act must ensure the continuity of access and coverage for all who currently have it. We are hopeful that, as this process moves forward, lawmakers will demonstrate their determination to meet these standards that the American people both expect and deserve,” Pollack said.

American Medical Association President David O. Barbe, MD, who on Thursday called the skinny bill “toxic,” cheered its defeat Friday morning.

“While we are relieved that the Senate did not adopt legislation that would have harmed patients and critical safety net programs, the status quo is not acceptable,” he said. “We urge Congress to initiate a bipartisan effort to address shortcomings in the Affordable Care Act. The first priority should be to stabilize the individual marketplace to achieve the goal of providing access to quality, affordable health coverage for more Americans.”

Health insurance companies opposed the removal of the individual and employer mandates under the skinny bill, and said it would destabilize the market. America’s Health Insurance Plans communications director Kristine Grow issued a terse release stating that AHIP “stands ready to continue to work with Congress and the administration on solutions to ensure that the American people have affordable, high-quality choices for their coverage and care.”

John Meigs, Jr., MD, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, said primary care physicians are “encouraged that the U.S. Senate failed to pass healthcare reform legislation.”

“This harmful legislation would have put the health of millions of Americans at risk through loss of coverage and destabilization of the health insurance market,” Meigs said. “By removing the individual and employer mandates and making health insurance optional, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that premiums would have risen up to 20% with each passing year, putting affordable coverage out of reach for millions of Americans. The Senate tried to pull the rug out from under the insurance market and failed.”

Bruce Siegel, MD, president and CEO of America’s Essential Hospitals, said the skinny bill’s defeat “is welcome news for millions of Americans and the nation’s essential hospitals, which care for people who face social and financial hardships.”

“Efforts to protect our hospitals and their patients must start now by averting damaging cuts to Medicaid disproportionate share hospital payments, set to start Oct. 1. Congress also must renew its commitment to the Children’s Health Insurance Program and other key elements of the safety net,” he said.

Darrell G. Kirch, MD, president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges, also praised the skinny repeal’s defeat and urged Congress and the Trump administration to work with the healthcare sector to improve the Affordable Care Act.

“The most immediate concern is stabilizing the health insurance market through continued, predictable funding of cost-sharing subsidies. Without these subsidies, the markets will face significant strains that could be devastating for patients, especially those who are most vulnerable,” Kirch said. “Additionally, there are other issues that must be addressed for the benefit of patients, including reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Medicare extenders, and reducing the unnecessary regulatory infrastructure that drives up costs and inhibits the efficient delivery of patient care.”

Sister Carol Keehan, DC, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association of the United States, said her organization “is pleased and relieved that we will now have an opportunity to work together in a bipartisan way to improve the ACA. Working together there are many ways that this landmark legislation can be much improved.”

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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