In a letter today to Senate leaders, ACE and 18 other higher education associations raised serious concerns about the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017, the Senate bill to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) emphasizes that it is critical that the bill not leave the country—including colleges and universities, students and families—worse off. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office issued its estimate on the bill Monday, saying it would increase the number of people without health insurance by 22 million by 2026.
The letter also drills down into the draft bill’s impact on higher education. Of particular concern are the proposed cuts and other changes to Medicaid, which will have a significant negative effect on state budgets.
“States would have to choose between providing health care for their most vulnerable residents and investing in higher education,” the groups write. “This would exacerbate the long-term decline in state support for higher education and inevitably lead to increased tuition and potentially cuts to state student financial aid programs, raising the cost of attending college for students and their families.”
Academic medicine and teaching hospitals, which serve as critical safety net providers and “are central to the future of health care in our country,” also stand to lose heavily under the bill.
On the potential impact on students, the associations write that many may lose access to health coverage—including mental health care—as a consequence of the bill’s Medicaid cutbacks and changes to individual market coverage requirements, while others relying on individual market coverage may see an increase in their out-of-pocket expenses.
The bill also does not address an issue with the ACA that the higher education community has sought to rectify: Eliminating the provision that prevents students from using premium tax subsidies to purchase student health insurance plans, which are designed to provide affordable access to comprehensive primary and mental health care on campus.
The Senate was scheduled to vote Tuesday on a motion to proceed with the bill. However, facing resistance from members of his own party, McConnell delayed the vote until after the July 4 holiday.
The House passed its bill to repeal and replace the ACA on May 4.