In the very early hours of the morning, the Senate voted against a scaled-back plan to repeal sections of the Affordable Care Act. By a vote of 49-51, the Senate did not pass the bill. All Democratic Senators voted against the plan, and three Republicans--Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, and John McCain of Arizona--joined them. This is a significant setback to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's efforts to get rid of the ACA; this week he has attempted to repeal it three separate times and failed every time.
Senator McCain recently returned to Washington D.C. from treatment and delivered a speech calling for a bipartisan solution to fix the problems with the ACA. He also attacked the rushed and secretive process that led to the repeal bills. His words have had an effect; Senator McConnell expressed disappointment that the bill was not passed, and he has withdraw the legislation from consideration and scheduled votes on nominations for next week.
This bill's defeat is welcome, for it would have caused millions of Americans to lose their health insurance and destablized individual insurance markets. In negotiations over the bill, McCain asked House Speaker Paul Ryan for a guarantee that the House would not quickly approve the bill and they would instead negotiate with the Senate to make it better. Ryan tried to assuage his concerns, but McCain was not satisfied, and ultimately voted no. Senators Collins and Murkowski were opposed to any bill that would have increased the ranks of the uninsured.
Any genuine solution to the problems with the Affordable Care Act must build on its success and promote access to affordable healthcare for all Americans. It will not be a short term project. One of those major problems is the cost of prescription drugs, which has been rising steadily for years. Many Americans can no longer afford the medicines they need. Fortunately, there are a number of bills in Congress to address the issue and fight price gouging, including the CREATES Act (to stop efforts to block access to generic drugs), the C-THRU Act (which would combat PBM abuses), and the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act (which would allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices). Congress should stop attempting to repeal the ACA and turn its attention to drug prices. Passing these bills will greatly help consumers and improve our healthcare system, a worthy legacy for any member of Congress.