Chair’s Corner: What now for the ACA?

I have been remiss in not posting regularly. My apologies for my silence; there certainly has been a lot going on in our world which we should all be actively talking about.

First, I must express my most sincere condolences to all those who experienced the tragedies of Harvey, Irma and Maria, and the unspeakable mass shooting in Las Vegas. Our country will be on its heels because of these events for a lot time. Although these are critical topics for discussion, I won’t speak to them directly, as there is plenty of discussion in other venues.

Today, I am writing about the ACA to ask “Where do we go now?”

Republican U.S. Senate fails to repeal and replace the ACA
On July 31, I wrote about the failure of the Republican-led U.S. Senate to pass its BCHA ACA repeal and replace bill. Americans, who now support the ACA by 52%, came out in droves to fight this repeal and replace legislation, and thankfully, Alaska’s senior Senator Lisa Murkowski voted no, because it did not follow regular order and would hurt so many Alaskans who can now access health care through the Medicaid expansion.

In September, the U.S. Senate tried to force through the Graham-Cassidy ACA repeal and replace bill, which was written behind closed doors, with only one hearing held just one day prior to the planned vote. Thanks to three U.S. Senators – McCain, Paul, and Collins – who said they would not vote for the bill, it never got to the floor.

After the bill’s failure, everyone lauded Senator Murkowski for her “no vote” on the disastrous legislation. In reality, Senator Murkowski didn’t have to take a position on it. I guess we should be grateful she didn’t accept Senator McConnell’s offer to sweeten the pot to entice her vote by allowing Alaska to keep Medicaid expansion.

But she never came out against the bill, and I don’t really think she deserves a lauding for her inaction on legislation that would have taken away health care from 33,000 Alaskans!

After Senator McConnell pulled the vote on the bill, due to Senators McCain, Paul and Collins’ non-support, she issued a press release on Senate healthcare reform efforts. Reading between the lines in her non-committal release, it is clear ACA repeal and replace will rear its ugly head again.

So what now?
Even though tax “reform” is now the focus of the Republican-led Congress, we must continue to keep the pressure on Senator Murkowski AND Senator Sullivan to do what’s right for Alaskans and the country.

They need to focus on making necessary improvements to the ACA rather than repeal and replace, to strengthen the individual markets, and to work to end the Trump administration’s sabotage of the ACA – don’t forget that his recent executive orders come on top of shutting down the national website during open enrollment and slashing the advertising budget to inform Americans how to access health insurance through the ACA.

ACA reform must be a bipartisan effort
When Senator Cantwell (D-Wash.) visited Juneau in late August, she talked about Washington state’s group health insurance programs. They seemed very positive to me and perhaps something could look into, to increase the options for Alaskans to get health insurance.

The bipartisan efforts of Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) continue, and perhaps that’s where we should voice our efforts.

As Senator Murkowski stated in her press release following the failure of the Republicans’ ACA repeal and replace bill, “the status quo with healthcare in this country is unacceptable.” The ACA has a lot of failures and needs a lot of work, but that’s what our elected officials are supposed to do – determine viable alternatives to improve health care for all Americans throughout the country, not just state by state.

But we need to keep our voices heard on how best to improve health care access, so let’s keep up the pressure!

Until next time……
Nancy Courtney
Chair, Tongass Democrats
(907) 321-2285

The views in this opinion piece are those of the author. They are not official positions of or the Tongass Democrats.

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