Legislative Update for Week Ending June 30, 2017

Legislative Update for Week Ending June 30, 2017

This week, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its analysis of the Senate’s new Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), and leaders in the Senate postponed a vote on it until after the week-long holiday recess.

CBO Scores BCRA, Leaders Postpone Vote

On Monday, the CBO released its highly anticipated analysis of the BCRA – health reform legislation released late last week by Republican leaders in the Senate. The report shows that if signed into law, the bill would leave 22 million more individuals uninsured than current law, and it would hit older, poorer people the hardest – especially those between the ages of fifty and sixty-four with less than $24,200 in annual income. Those individuals would see health insurance premium increases of 200 percent or more under the BCRA.

In addition, according to the CBO’s analysis, around 15 million fewer individuals would receive coverage through the Medicaid program, which currently covers the cost of long-term care for one in five Medicare beneficiaries. The BCRA would do away with the current Medicaid reimbursement system – where the federal government matches state Medicaid expenditures – and replace it with a new formula that would be tied to inflation. If costs grow more quickly than reimbursements as they are expected to, states would likely need to cut benefits, increase taxes, or restrict Medicaid eligibility.

In a statement, Mary Johnson – a policy analyst for The Senior Citizens League – said this week: “This could be particularly problematic for older, low-income Americans who represent a disproportionate share of Medicaid spending … Capping and adjusting payments to states would take benefits away from millions of low-income families, including disabled and older Americans in nursing homes, all to pay for massive tax breaks for the very wealthiest U.S. households.”

TSCL opposes the BCRA since it would undermine the health and financial stability of older Americans if signed into law. In the days ahead, we will continue to advocate against its passage on Capitol Hill. In the meantime, we encourage our members and supporters to contact their Senators to request their opposition to the bill. Calls from constituents have already made a significant difference in slowing down the movement of the bill through the Senate. Leaders originally hoped to hold a vote on the BCRA by Friday, June 30th, but because they could not secure the fifty votes needed, they have decided to postpone the vote until they return from the week-long holiday recess.

In the days ahead, many Senators will be holding town hall meetings in their home states. TSCL encourages its members and supporters to attend these events and to ask important questions about the BCRA, like the following two…

• Around 20% of Medicare beneficiaries are also enrolled in Medicaid and receive help from the program to cover long-term nursing home stays. The BCRA would cut Medicaid by more than $800 billion and cap federal spending on the program. How will you ensure access to nursing home care, and can you guarantee that older Americans will not be forced out of skilled nursing facilities due to funding cuts?
• If signed into law, the BCRA would create an immediate funding crisis for the Medicare Part A Trust Fund by eliminating a key revenue source and providing the wealthiest Americans with a massive tax cut. Do you support this move, and what efforts would you back to address the Medicare funding crisis?

For updates on the progress of the BCRA in the coming days, follow TSCL on Twitter or visit the Legislative News section of our website. For information on upcoming town hall meetings near you, click HERE.