Stepping up to protect health care access
There have been a lot of moving parts on the state and national policy landscape with health care lately. Between the state budget restrictions to Ohio’s Medicaid program and the Congressional Republicans’ efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare), health care access has been on the line and under attack. In the face of these attacks, advocates have stepped up greatly to protect that access: making phone calls to lawmakers, attending rallies, and sharing their health care stories. And it worked, but the fight is not over yet!
Federal efforts to repeal and replace the ACA
It’s been a whirlwind process in Washington, but the efforts to repeal the ACA have been stopped – for now. To recap, last week the most recent attempt to dismantle the ACA failed to pass in the U.S. Senate. After passing a motion to proceed, debate on the Senate Republicans’ health care bills began. The debate carried on into the early hours of Friday morning followed by votes on three separate proposals: the Senate’s original repeal and replace bill, a partial repeal and delay amendment, and the “Skinny Repeal” bill.
The last proposal – the “Skinny Repeal” was suspected to be the most likely to pass, but thanks in large part to the calls of opposition from advocates across the country, Senators Collins, Murkowski, and McCain joined all of the Democratic Senators to vote ‘NO’, killing the proposal with a 51-49 vote. Unfortunately, Senator Portman was not among those that took a stand against these harmful proposals. Although he voted ‘NO’ on the repeal and delay proposal, he voted ‘YES’ on the partial replace amendment and the “Skinny Repeal.” Here’s how each Senator voted on the three proposals.
What’s next for the ACA
Despite this huge win last week, there are still looming threats to certain provisions of the health care law. While there have been calls for Congress to come together and fix certain aspects of Obamacare through a bi-partisan approach, President Trump and some members of Congress remain dedicated to dismantling the ACA and Medicaid.
President Trump has threatened to withhold federal Obamacare subsidies unless Congress takes action on health care repeal. These mandatory cost-sharing discounts have played a critical role in ensuring affordable coverage for many low-income individuals and families, and would lead to chaos in the ACA marketplaces, premium cost hikes, and the potential exit of insurers if the Trump administration refuses to keep reimbursing them.
The U.S. House has also proposed huge funding cuts and drastic restrictions to the Medicaid program in their budget plan, which would be disastrous for the women and families depending on Medicaid coverage for health care.
State-level threats to Medicaid
Threats to health care coverage are also coming at the state-level. As you will recall from the close of the state legislative session before summer recess,Governor Kasich had vetoed a number of restrictions to the Medicaid program that were included in the Legislature’s final version of the two-year state budget. When the Ohio House took up votes to override vetoes, Ohioans rallied in front of the Statehouse to show lawmakers the strong support of the Medicaid program. Again, the contact to lawmakers’ offices and public support made a difference.
The House did not have the votes they needed to override the veto of the Medicaid expansion enrollment freeze and did not take a vote on that provision. However, they did veto a number of Medicaid-related provisions that would add further restrictions to the program, including enforcing the “Healthy Ohio” program to require low-income Ohioans to pay a monthly premium or risk losing their coverage.
What’s next for Ohio’s Medicaid program
The Ohio Senate must now take their veto override votes, and could come back to do so as early as mid-August. Ohio legislators have also introduced separate bills to restrict the Medicaid program in the state: SB 99 would put a close to new enrollment in Ohio’s Medicaid expansion program and SB 168 completely ends Ohio’s Medicaid expansion program.
Staying engaged and ready to mobilize
We had some clear victories in efforts to protect health care, but need to be ready to mobilize against any new attacks. Sign up for our legislative emails to stay up to date on what’s next and how you can take action.