After a week’s recess, the U.S. Senate returns to work this week and Republican leaders still have not cleared a path toward repealing and replacing the Affordable Health Care (ACA) Law and replacing it with GOP’s Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA).
Republican leaders in the Senate avoided voting on the bill in late June, when it was discovered there were not enough GOP Senators willing to support it.
Senate Republicans, according to recent media reports, plan to submit a revised bill since the initial one met with such opposition from the GOP members.
The Republicans have a 52-seat majority in the Senate, compared to 48 seats held by Democrats. The Republican leaders need at least 50 votes from their caucus to pass the BCRA.
Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell pulled the bill from the floor, after five members of his caucus stood against it in late June.
And according to media reports, as the Senate reconvenes this week, there are at least 10 Republicans, for varying reasons, who do not like it.
Republicans do not expect to schedule a vote on the measure during the first week back from the July 4 recess. But one is anticipated by the time the U.S. Congress adjourns for its August recess.
McConnell has said if his party could not muster the votes to pass the measure, then he would reach out to Democrats, left out of the secret meetings where 12 White male Republican Senators hatched the scheme.
Democrats have said they are steadfast in their opposition to the Republican reform laws crafted in the U.S. House and now the Senate to “Repeal and Replace” the ACA.
Republicans are taking a big political risk if they fail to produce a bill which a large segment of their voters and Democrats find acceptable.
Affordability for poor and working class people and not shortchanging the poor, the elderly and children will be key factors consumers are looking for in a GOP bill.
Apart from the higher cost for the elderly, critics of the GOP plan said it would reduce funding that Medicaid provides for the chronically ill, handicapped and for school health support programs.
One Capitol Hill staffer who is an expert on Congressional efforts to reform the bill told the GUIDE, on the condition of anonymity, that Republicans have been skillfully dodging media inquiries about their stand on the bill.
“They sit and talk about what’s wrong with Obamacare or the ACA,” the staffer said. “They say premiums are too high, that it does not cover this or that. Then you ask them ‘what does your bill do … does it make things better’ and they cannot answer. Every time.”
Democratic U.S. Congressman Robert Scott, who represents Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District, Is one of those Democrats in the House who opposed the House and the Senate Plans.
Scott held a town hall meeting at the King’s Fork Middle School in Suffolk on Monday, July 10 to talk to constituents about the Senate bill. Hours before, Scott talked to the GUIDE about his position on the measure, asking the question, “Does it make the situation better…and not worse?”
“There will be 22 million fewer people with healthcare coverage, the cost will go up and the quality goes down,” said Scott. “What’s the purpose? They are going to reduce Medicaid which will leave many poor people uninsured.”
According to one of his staffers, only 12 percent of the nation supports the bill.
Dr. Keith Newby, a noted Cardiologist in Norfolk with offices at the Fort Norfolk Plaza Medical Building for over ten years, told the GUIDE that he is concerned about the outcome of the Senate Republicans’ reform effort.
He said he and other physicians treat a variety of high risk and poor patients who may be negatively impacted due to the escalating cost of health care and politics.
Newby said he would prefer that the Republicans just “repair” the flaws of the ACA as opposed to repealing and replacing it with a plan which restricts choice for the sickest people.
Newby said any reform plan must address the cost of providing care for people with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease, or other ailments which call for long term care where a good portion of money for health care is directed.
Lawmakers could put this high risk community into a high pool and devote funding toward addressing their needs, he said, which could drive down the cost for younger, healthier patients.
Newby is against a “Single Payer” system, which would erect a government-funded plan to cover the cost of the medical care for all because it would reduce the level of choice for others.
He said the insurance companies are reluctant to give up their dominance in the healthcare system and forsake profits, which allows them to recoup money they devote toward patient care.
Newby also said the cost of malpractice insurance, which also drives up the cost of healthcare, should be addressed, as well.
With any reforms, a culture of prevention must be created, he said. The cost of medical care would be reduced, he added, if “Health Care Coordinators” are hired and dispatched to insure that people with chronic diseases and weight problems which contribute to illness, are monitored to insure they follow directions by physicians, get proper nutrition, and take their medicines as prescribed.
Since the Congressional debate on reforming the ACA has surfaced, it has grown in popularity. But when the term “Obamacare” is uttered by divisive Republican politicians, people have a negative attitude.
Dr. Newby said he believes the reason the Republican leadership is reluctant to “repair” the ACA and prefers imposing a draconian restrictive plan is tied to racism and the GOP’s disdain for President Barack Obama and his administration’s signature legislation.
In actuality, the ACA is based on ideas from a variety of Republican think-tanks and was imposed by Republican Governor Mitt Romney in Massachusetts.
Dr. Newby said in the coming months he will be advocating for more positive reforms of the nation’s healthcare system via forums and the media.
By Leonard E. Colvin