Senate Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday gave up his hope of voting on the Senate bill to repeal major elements the Affordable Care Act (ACA) before lawmakers left for the July 4 recess, Politico reported.
It became increasingly clear after the Congressional Budget Office analysis of the bill was released Monday that not enough Republican senators were satisfied with the bill and there wouldn't be enough time to change their minds.
It doesn't mean the bill is dead, but it does indicate major changes might be needed before a vote is scheduled. But while the bulk of industry and advocate opposition comes from the millions of people who would lose coverage, McConnell’s biggest obstacle so far has been a few hard-line conservatives who think the bill doesn't go far enough in repealing the ACA.
The healthcare industry will largely see the delayed vote as a relief, although a small one. The Senate bill, called the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) is still pending and organizations like the American Medical Association, American Hospital Association and the Association of Medicaid Directors have strongly opposed it.
The CBO projected both the House and Senate bills would result in more than 20 million people losing their coverage over the next 10 years. The analysis of the BCRA showed 15 million people would lose their insurance as soon as next year. For hospitals, higher uninsurance rates mean more uncompensated care costs, lower patient volumes and fewer services sought.
In part because of the bill’s stark unpopularity, McConnell’s M.O. for the past several weeks has been a swift and extremely quiet process to replace the ACA with the BCRA. The House was even ready to work through the weekend to approve the bill if it passed. That’s despite a few changes between the Senate bill and the House’s American Health Care Act.
With the vote delayed, lawmakers will be going back to their home districts during the holiday. If a few of the more moderate Republican senators are swayed to oppose the BCRA, its path forward becomes even murkier.