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Senate Punts on Latest Health Care Bill

The measure would have slashed coverage for millions of older Americans

En español | Conceding they don’t have the votes to pass it, the authors of the latest bill designed to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) announced Tuesday that the Senate would not vote on the legislation this week.

The decision not to vote on the Graham-Cassidy bill came after several Senate Republicans said they would oppose it and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said it would leave millions of Americans without affordable health care. Still, Senate leaders left the door open to revisiting health care legislation this session.

“We don’t have the votes,’’ said Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, coauthor of the measure, after GOP senators gathered for lunch at the Capitol. 

"Look, we haven't given up on changing the American health care system; we're not going to do that this week," added Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. "But it still lies ahead of us.”

The announcement comes a day after the CBO said that this latest attempt to repeal the ACA would cause millions of Americans to lose insurance or face severely limited health care coverage.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the other coauthor of the legislation, insisted that he and Cassidy would continue this fight. “We’re coming back to this after taxes,” Graham said, referring to the next item on the Republican majority’s agenda — tax reform. Graham said they will “have a better process and we’re going to take the show on the road.”

AARP staunchly opposed the Graham-Cassidy bill and conducted a full-court press urging senators to vote no on the measure, rallying its 38 million members to contact their lawmakers.

“The Senate leadership’s decision to not bring the Graham-Cassidy bill up for a vote shows that the voices of the American people are very powerful,” said AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond. “Instead of this harmful bill, we strongly urge Congress to find bipartisan solutions for the problems in our health care system. Older Americans and their families need health care they can afford and rely on.”

CBO’s analysis of Graham-Cassidy concluded that Medicaid funding would decrease by $1 trillion over the next 10 years and that tax credits that help Americans afford private health insurance coverage would be cut, as well.

“The number of people with comprehensive health insurance that covers high-cost medical events would be reduced by millions,” the CBO said. The analysis lists three major reasons:

  • Enrollment in Medicaid would be “substantially lower because of large reductions in federal funding.”
  • Enrollment in individual coverage in the private insurance market “would be substantially lower” because the subsidies that low- and middle-income individuals receive to help them afford insurance would be drastically reduced.
  • Fewer people would buy health insurance “because penalties for not having insurance would be repealed.” Current law requires most Americans to have health insurance. 

Graham-Cassidy also would fundamentally change the current health care system by enabling states to decide how they would regulate Medicaid and the individual health insurance markets. That change would allow states to charge older consumers substantially higher rates for coverage, or what AARP calls an “age tax,” and demand higher premiums from people with preexisting conditions, according to the CBO. In addition, the CBO said, states could decide which essential medical benefits insurers have to cover, putting at risk such vital services as emergency care, prescription drugs and preventive care.