On July 25, the United States Senate voted 51-50, with the tie-breaking vote cast by Vice President Mike Pence, on a motion to proceed to consideration of legislation that would ultimately repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). With the Senate floor now open to debate on legislation that is still unclear, the Senate will take up amendment and consideration of legislative actions to do one of the following:
1. Repeal only certain pieces of the ACA,
2. Replace the ACA with either the Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) or the House-passed American Healthcare Act (AHCA), or
3. Vote to repeal the ACA after a 2 year delay without a replacement.
Each Congressional attempt at healthcare reform seeks to end Medicaid expansion and implement a “per capita cap” federal formula that would limit states’ abilities to provide benefits and services to certain vulnerable populations, especially adults with chronic diseases and aging Americans. Furthermore, both the House and the Senate legislation include a provision that would allow for states to waive the requirement that insurance companies provide “essential health benefits” on plans within their states. Under the ACA, essential health benefits include children’s vision benefits which include screenings and eye examinations and services that help patients manage their chronic diseases, particularly those from which vision loss is a complication or comorbidity.
Prevent Blindness works to bring Americans to eye care through education, preventive services, and by increasing access to care. As the nation’s leading volunteer eye health organization, we have consistently advocated for policies that would ensure Americans have access to the vision and eye health services they need. We support policies that improve health systems, not undermine them or reduce access to opportunities for early detection and treatment of eye diseases for children or older Americans with pre-existing conditions and chronic illness.
As the Senate debates this week, Prevent Blindness will continue to oppose any attempts to remove children’s vision benefits as provided under the ACA’s essential health benefits protection or any efforts that deteriorate the Medicaid program by eliminating expansion or implementing federal spending policies that weaken program eligibility or eliminate critical services.