The New York Times (6/22, Pear, Kaplan, Subscription Publication) reports that on Thursday, Senate Republicans “took a major step” towards their goal of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act by “unveiling a bill to cut Medicaid deeply and end the health law’s mandate that most Americans have health insurance.” The measure “would create a new system of federal tax credits to help people buy health insurance, while offering states the ability to drop many of the benefits required by the Affordable Care Act, like maternity care, emergency services and mental health treatment.” The article says that although GOP senators had promised their ACA repeal bill would significantly modify the American Health Care Act which the House passed last month, the proposal which was put forward maintains the AHCA’s “structure, with modest adjustments.”
USA Today (6/22, Kelly, Collins) reports the Senate’s bill differs from the AHCA in that “it does away with a controversial House provision – which critics dubbed an ‘age tax’ – that would greatly increase costs for older Americans who need subsidies to pay for medical coverage.” In addition, the Senate’s version “would tie subsidies to income rather than age,” but this would “make it harder for people to qualify for the subsidies by tightening the income requirements.” Republican leaders are saying this bill is the party’s best option to keep conservatives’ promise to repeal and replace the ACA.
The Wall Street Journal (6/22, A1, Armour, Peterson, Radnofsky, Subscription Publication) reports on its front page that the bill would unwind major provisions of the ACA, such as its expansion of Medicaid. The article says Republicans are hoping to move quickly to pass an ACA repeal bill before the July 4 recess. However, some GOP lawmakers in the Senate say they are worried about some of the changes included in the measure.
The Los Angeles Times (6/22, Levey, Mascaro) reports that the bill includes “a drastic reduction in federal healthcare spending that threatens to leave millions more Americans uninsured, drive up costs for poor consumers and further destabilize the nation’s health insurance markets.”
On its website, ABC News (6/22, Stracqualursi, Adam Kelsey, Rogin) says top medical groups criticized the bill. For instance, the American Psychiatric Association’s CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, MD, said, “The Senate proposal represents a significant move in the wrong direction, resulting in fewer people having access to insurance, fewer patient protections, and less coverage for essential behavioral health care.”
The Huffington Post (6/22, Holmes) reports, “Mental health organizations have been expressing concern about how the Republican effort to repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act “could affect people living with mental illness.” For example, “American Psychiatric Association officials noted that they were not consulted on the House version or the Senate’s draft legislation.”
Psychiatric News (6/22) quotes Dr. Levin, who also said, “We urge the Senate to reject this harmful legislation and start again on a health care bill that puts patients first.” Meanwhile, APA President-Elect Altha Stewart, MD, said in a June 21 press release, “Eliminating requirements for coverage of key benefits, including mental health and substance use disorders and other patient protections that are part of the Affordable Care Act, will have detrimental impacts for millions.” Dr. Stewart added, “Mental health is critical to overall health and needs to be equally accessible.”
— “Senate Health Care Bill Includes Deep Cuts to Medicaid,” ROBERT PEAR and THOMAS KAPLAN, New York Times, June 23, 2017.