ACE, Higher Education Associations Express Serious Concerns About Senate Health Care Legislation
September 25, 2017

In a letter (86 KB PDF) sent this morning to Senate leaders, ACE and 19 other higher education associations raised serious concerns about the health care legislation to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (ACA) proposed by several Republican senators, including Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.

The letter notes that the concerns largely mirror those expressed by ACE and other higher education associations regarding earlier legislation to repeal and replace the ACA, the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.  

The associations conclude that, “it is essential that any health care legislation not leave colleges and universities and many students and their families worse off. Without changes, the bill’s impact on colleges and universities, teaching hospitals and those we serve will be severely negative.” 

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 and, by extension, on state funding for public higher education.

“In particular, states would have to choose between providing health care for their most vulnerable residents and investing in higher education,” the letter states. “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.

As of this morning, several Republican senators had either declared their opposition to the bill or expressed serious misgivings, and all Democrats were opposed. Senate GOP leaders had hoped to bring the bill to a vote later this week, but its path forward in the Senate remained unclear.

The House passed the latest of its many bills to repeal and replace the ACA on May 4.