Advocacy Alert: Action Required! June 30, 2017 by Chelsey Fix Ask your Senators to Vote NO on the Senate Healthcare Repeal Bill Last week, the Senate released their version of health reform legislation entitled The Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA). The bill was slated for a vote this week but, after fierce opposition from the public health community, the vote has been postponed until after the July 4th recess. The bill is expected to undergo some changes in order to gain the support of Senators that have thus far withheld support of the measure. The bill, while seeking to reduce insurance premiums and provide coverage options to individuals with high healthcare costs, harms patients in the following ways: Limits care for people with pre-existing conditions by allowing insurers to offer less comprehensive policies through a provision that allows states to waive the federal mandate on essential health benefits. While insurers will still be required to cover individuals with pre-existing conditions, these individuals may not have all their treatments and services covered. Decreases insurance coverage by allowing states to seek and receive waivers to opt out of limits on patient out-of-pocket costs and annual/lifetime caps. Contains a continuous coverage requirement, which would charge a penalty to individuals with a gap in their insurance coverage. Increases costs for older Americans. Insurers would be allowed to charge older Americans five times more than younger Americans for the same coverage. Ends Medicaid expansion, leaving millions of the most vulnerable individuals without critical care. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has stated that the BCRA would cause: 15 million more people to be uninsured next year. In ten years, that number would grow to 22 million people uninsured. Patient out-of-pocket expenditures to rise dramatically, especially for people in states that opt for Essential Health Benefits waivers. The prohibitions on annual and lifetime benefit caps could be eliminated in states that opt for Essential Health Benefits waivers. Now is the time to weigh in with your Senators and make sure they oppose the BCRA as currently proposed and make sure they go back to the drawing board and work together to find ways to protect patients with chronic and costly medical conditions. Take Action: Secure the contact information for your Senators by visiting www.Senate.gov and using the “Find Your Senator” query tool in the upper right corner. Call the office and ask for the Health Legislative Assistant. You can either leave a voicemail or request their e-mail address and send them a message using the template found here. Politely and occasionally follow up on your request. You should have an expectation that the office will respond to your specific concerns. If you would like to do more, you can request a brief meeting with the staff at your Senators’ local offices (the location office information is on their websites).