As the Senate deliberates legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack today warned that “history will remember how the Senate votes and whether it votes to protect coverage or leave the most vulnerable behind.”

Pollack was joined by Sr. Carol Keehan, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association of the United States, and Atul Grover, M.D., executive vice president of the Association of American Colleges, to discuss the bill in a telephone press briefing.

The health care leaders expressed their strong opposition to the Better Care Reconciliation Act a day after the Congressional Budget Office estimated that it would result in 22 million more people uninsured in 2026 and cut $772 billion in federal spending from the Medicaid program from 2017-2026.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, today announced that the Senate will not vote on legislation until after the July 4 recess.

The bill “asks the low-income and most vulnerable in our country to bear the brunt of cuts to our health care system so that we can give a tax break to the richest and most fortunate in our country,” Keehan said.

Grover said America’s teaching hospitals will use “whatever resources we have to make sure” uninsured or underinsured patients get the care they need. “But the challenge becomes what about Level I trauma centers, mental health services and inpatient psychiatric beds?” he asked. “This is a giant step backwards not just for [those] who will feel it immediately, but for everybody who we care about.”

According to the CBO report, the Senate bill would mean that an estimated 15 million fewer Americans would have coverage next year, compared with the number if the Affordable Care Act remained in place.

At the end of the decade, the 22 million increase in the ranks of the uninsured would include 15 million low-income Americans who would otherwise be on Medicaid and 7 million with private insurance. That total is about a million less than the 2026 impact of the House plan.

The AHA’s Pollack said the hospital and health system message is for “the Senate to go back to the drawing board and write a bill that protects coverage for Americans who already have it, particularly our most vulnerable patients.”    

Denver event highlights concerns. Meanwhile, at an event today in Denver, patients and health care providers highlighted concerns with the House-passed American Health Care Act and the Senate's Better Care Reconciliation Act. 

Speakers included a cancer survivor, diabetes patient, mother of premature twins, two physicians and the CEO of a 15-bed critical access hospital. 

"In rural Colorado, where I work, there are some areas where 40% of the patients seen in hospitals and clinics are on Medicaid," said Trampas Hutches, CEO of Melissa Memorial Hospital in Holyoke, CO. "If these proposed cuts take place, devastation would occur for local rural economies due to hospitals closing and patients incurring huge amounts of debt.”  

Organized by the AHA, AARP, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, American Medical Association, Federation of American Hospitals, March of Dimes and others, the event was the third in a series around the country urging Congress to protect coverage for patients, including one last week in Reno, NV.