Andy Slavitt, the acting head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services at the end of the Obama administration, has been a tireless opponent of Republican efforts to repeal his former boss’ signature health care law. In late July, after three Republican senators voted against approving the so-called “skinny” repeal bill, Slavitt tweeted that he would be taking a weeklong break from the social media platform.
One commenter on this news said, “I will believe this when I see it.” That was his wife, Lana.
Medical, senior and health care research groups overwhelmingly opposed the various bills that the Senate hatched — in secret and with virtually no public debate. They, too, are looking for some relaxation in August. But Congress will be back in session in September, so these groups will be recharging their batteries.
They also will be nervously checking President Donald Trump’s tweets, which so far have indicated he will do whatever he can to help Obamacare fail and thus force Congress to act. And don’t forget that the Senate will still be in session for two more weeks and that Trump has launched a shame-and-threaten offensive to get Republican senators to take up health care before they go home. To date, there seems little chance Republicans will take up health care again any time soon.
Republicans are far from finished when it comes to trying to honor their seven-year-old pledge to do away with the Affordable Care Act.
However, Republicans are far from finished when it comes to trying to honor their seven-year-old pledge to do away with the Affordable Care Act. And don’t forget that the Affordable Care Act provides major financial benefits to Medicare, as well as reducing the share of drug prices that Part D plan holders must pay. Even if direct repeal is off the table for now, you can expect some Republicans to seek to damage the law by using some of the other powerful tools at their disposal.
Further, the federal budget proposed by the Trump White House includes direct cuts to senior safety-net programs. The Social Security disability insurance fund would take a direct funding hit. Broader adjustments to the program are also being discussed by Congressional Republicans. Democrats have been talking about changes that would expand Social Security benefits. That’s nice, but the last time I looked, Democrats can’t legislate anything by themselves.
Meanwhile, there also will be continued GOP efforts to give the states significant control over how Medicare and Medicaid funds are spent. Current federal guarantees of payment for covered health expenses would be replaced with block grant programs giving states a say over how much such expenses would be covered and, in time, even whether some expenses would be covered.
Today, with Capitol Hill’s largely silent and long-postponed summer vacations underway, there is little appetite for re-engaging in nasty policy fights. But when the leaders and their troops are rested, there is little doubt that we will be back at it again. For the time being at least, enjoy your beach reading and favorite libations! But if you are an older American or work for an organization that supports seniors, you should get ready again for serious work in the fall.