SCHA staff and members spent many days in Washington, DC this year talking to South Carolina’s Senators and Congressmen about efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
Immediately after the 2016 election, talk of healthcare reform was front and center. A winning campaign issue for Republicans, repealing the Affordable Care Act – “Obamacare” – became a realistic possibility with Republican control of the US House, Senate, and White House for the first time since the law was enacted in 2010. SCHA’s Advocacy Team worked tirelessly in Columbia and in Washington to review, analyze and voice concerns about the proposed plans to our delegation.
In March 2017, the American Health Care Act (AHCA) was revealed to the public and served as the starting point for healthcare reform negotiations. Over the course of the year, countless amendments and at least four different bill names distinguished the new versions from the old. The Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 (BCRA) was the Senate’s first attempt, followed by the Obamacare Repeal Reconciliation Act (ORRA), and then the Healthcare Freedom Act (HCFA).
AHCA did pass the House, but was considered dead-on-arrival in the Senate. Surprisingly, BCRA was very similar to the bill that had been given no chance of passing the upper chamber. Unsurprisingly, BCRA was amended several times, brought to the floor, offered more than one hundred amendments, and renamed ORRA then HCFA before falling short of the necessary 50 votes needed to pass.
Among the amendments offered was one by SC Sen. Lindsey Graham and Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana. The Graham-Cassidy Bill gained steam in September, but contained many of the same concerning provisions of its predecessors. This iteration also fell short of the necessary support and did not make it to the floor for a vote this year.
SCHA’s Advocacy Team built upon relationships with elected officials and staff and represented South Carolina’s hospitals diligently throughout the fight. We were successful in improving many provisions of the bills for South Carolina’s hospitals and patients, and ultimately – along with many other advocate groups – in stopping the legislation. Our grassroots community played a large role, too, sending more than 200 messages to our Senators in opposition to BCRA.
The effort to repeal and replace the ACA is certainly not over, and the current law is not perfect. Even now, we see the healthcare debate seeping into tax reform as Congress considers whether to repeal the individual mandate to purchase health insurance. We will continue to engage with state and federal leaders to protect access to affordable health coverage in South Carolina. SCHA looks forward to a new year and meaningful conversations about healthcare in Washington.