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ACA “Skinny Repeal” Dies in Senate, Leaving Next Steps Uncertain

Senators narrowly voted not to pursue the "skinny repeal" plan that would have cut tax penalties for failing to secure insurance coverage.

ACA skinny repeal

Source: Thinkstock

By Jennifer Bresnick

- In the early hours of Friday morning, the Senate failed to pass its attempt at a “skinny repeal” of the Affordable Care Act, which would have eliminated the tax penalties associated with the individual mandate for insurance coverage and the employer mandate to offer insurance to full-time employees.

Senators Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Susan Collins (ME) were joined at the last minute by Senator John McCain (AZ) to produce a 51-49 vote against the hastily cobbled-together measure.

Estimates from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) stated that eliminating the mandates while keeping the guarantees of coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions would spike premiums by approximately 20 percent and result in an additional 16 million people uninsured.

“This is clearly a disappointing moment,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), according to the LA Times.

The vote came hours after a press conference during which Senator McCain, along with Lindsay Graham of South Carolina and and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, demanded assurances from House leadership that if they passed the bill, it would go to a conference between the two houses and not directly become law.

Graham, who eventually voted in favor of the repeal, used strong language to deride the proposition, calling it a “disaster” and a “fraud.”

As the Senate’s week of frenzied activity on healthcare sputtered to a halt after the failure of three proposals to alter current law, it is unclear whether GOP leadership will take up the cause again in the near future. 

Senators could not agree upon either the House’s suggestion for drastically cutting Medicaid and eliminating many of the ACA’s consumer protections or even on their own version of reform, which offered many similar proposals.  Lawmakers also rejected a flat-out repeal of the entire Affordable Care Act by a fairly wide margin.

How Republican lawmakers will proceed, either to take questionable steps to weaken the existing provisions of the Affordable Care Act or to float additional pathways for repeal, remains to be seen. 

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