On Thursday, July 13, the Senate released a modified discussion draft of the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) of 2017. Despite several changes to the original draft, the Senate’s latest iteration comes up woefully short, maintaining among other things, the devastating cuts to the Medicaid program that would leave millions of Americans without the coverage they count on for mental health services, substance abuse treatment, and care for chronic and pre-existing conditions.
The latest version incorporates an amendment by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) that would fundamentally undermine critical consumer protections, including pre-existing conditions and essential health benefits. The provision would allow insurers to offer cheap plans that cover few services so long as they offered a single plan in the market that adheres to current law. Experts believe this approach would essentially create an unaffordable and unfunded high-risk pool option for the old and sick and drive the young and healthy into cheap barebones coverage options.
While the newest discussion draft adds an additional $45 billion, over 10 years, for opioid treatment and recovery, it does not go nearly far enough to ensure a strong health care system for the millions of Americans suffering from substance abuse disorders.
Additionally, the latest draft allows health saving accounts (HSAs) to pay for health care premiums, which would largely benefit high-income individuals. While several Republican Senators still have concerns with this latest draft, negotiations are underway to ensure swift passage.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is expected to release its score of the updated BCRA draft today or Tuesday. Because of a surgery and recovery period for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) the vote will likely be delayed. NASW will provide you with up-to-date information once the CBO releases its score and as the Senate GOP Leadership works to secure the required 50 votes-plus a tie breaking vote from Vice President Pence – to obtain Senate passage.
As you await these updates, remember that your voice is vital! Please use every opportunity to communicate with your Senators to vote no on this new iteration of BCRA.