This afternoon, the Senate Finance Committee—one of two committees responsible for healthcare in the Senate—is holding a hearing on the Graham-Cassidy healthcare proposal. Yesterday, Senators circulated a new version of the bill, designed to appeal to key legislators, such as Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). This updated bill retains they key components of Graham-Cassidy, threatening both government and employer-based health insurance coverage. It would cut Medicaid spending, eliminate the Prevention and Public Health Fund, and do away with requirements to cover benefits such as maternity care. The bill would also remove penalties for employers that fail to provide affordable health insurance to employees. Last week, the other committee overseeing healthcare—the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions or Senate HELP—announced that their bipartisan efforts to stabilize healthcare markets under the existing Affordable Care Act system had come to an end. Leaders of the HELP Committee, Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), were informed that Republican leadership is unwilling to put their bipartisan proposal to a vote. This action increases the likelihood of Graham-Cassidy moving forward. However, Senator John McCain’s (R-AZ) announcement that he will vote against the bill, and Senator Susan Collins’ (R-ME) statement yesterday that “it’s very difficult for [her] to envision a scenario where [she] would end up voting for this bill," both decrease the bill’s likelihood of passage. Congress has until this Saturday, September 30th, to pass the bill using the FY2017 budget reconciliation process, which allows them to do so with a simple majority (50 votes + the Vice President).
You can take action to oppose the Graham-Cassidy bill and other proposals to repeal or weaken the ACA by using this action alert from the American Public Health Association (APHA) or by calling the Capitol switchboard and asking to be connected to the offices of your senators at 202-224-3121.
Sample phone script:
Introduce yourself as a constituent and public health professional.
I urge Sen. XX to oppose the Graham-Cassidy Affordable Care Act repeal bill. This proposal would:
Thank you for lifting up your voice to protect the ACA!
As a reminder: The above action is considered lobbying. It is your democratic right to lobby. Lobbying is a particular type of advocacy involving an attempt to influence specific legislation by communicating directly with an elected official or his or her staff. Each state has specific laws for state employees about lobbying efforts while on the job. We recommend limiting lobbying efforts to coffee breaks, lunch breaks, after hours and other times not considered “work time.”
Budget & Appropriations Update
As we shared in a previous update, Congress has passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government through December 8, 2017. Under a CR, there is an across-the-board sequestration funding cut of 0.0675%. This means that the funding level through December 8th will be $6.346 million. We are confident that this funding level will meet caseloads for now, but anticipate conversations over the budget and the debt ceiling to continue as the CR and debt ceiling lift will both expire on December 8th. Debate over tax reform and the FY 2018 budget—including the potential for cutting non-defense discretionary spending on programs like WIC to pay for tax cuts—is also ongoing. We will continue to keep you updated on these debates.