Lobbies are split on whether to shape a new measure or try to kill it
Sen. Orrin Hatch, shown this past week on Capitol Hill, is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee that will draft much of the Senate health legislation. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images
WASHINGTON—Health-care groups that vocally opposed the House Republicans’ health plan are now split on the best path forward in the Senate: Should they work with lawmakers to shape a measure or simply try to kill it?
As House Republicans pushed through legislation toppling large portions of the Affordable Care Act, groups representing hospitals, doctors, consumers and some insurers made no secret of their displeasure. Largely shut out of the talks, they actively opposed the bill, firing off angry letters and in some cases airing ads aimed at vulnerable House Republicans.
Now, in the Senate, which hopes to complete its own version of a health overhaul by August, Republicans are unambiguous about their intention to draft an entirely new bill in a more deliberate manner with input from outside groups. Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the Senate Finance chairman whose committee is responsible for drafting much of the legislation, has specifically asked for suggestions from industry associations.
Such declared openness to collaboration has left health organizations with a choice. Some industry leaders say that if senators are genuinely ready to set aside the House bill and heed their concerns, they are ready to cooperate.
“We are not philosophically opposed to ‘repeal and replace,’ but Americans need to have a conversation about whether replacement is better than what we’ve got,” said Andrew Gurman, president of the American Medical Association. The House health measure “was in our estimation a potentially very bad bill.”
Health groups’ reasons for opposing that bill varied, but many feared that cuts in funding and coverage would mean many Americans, especially older and sicker ones, would receive inadequate care and that hospitals and doctors would shoulder a greater financial burden. This past week the Congressional Budget Office said that while some healthier people would see lower premiums, in some states that opt out of some Affordable Care Act rules, which is allowed under the GOP bill, “less healthy people would face extremely high premiums.”
Part of the calculation for industry officials now is whether Senate Republicans are likely to succeed in crafting a bill that can attract 50 of the 52 GOP senators, the minimum they need to push it through.