​​​​​​​Hospital groups launch $1M campaign against Senate bill

A coalition of groups representing U.S. hospitals is launching a $1 million advertising campaign against the Senate’s healthcare bill.

The Coalition to Protect America’s Health Care, which includes the American Hospital Association, the Catholic Health Association and the Association of American Medical Colleges, also launched a campaign against the House of Representatives’ version of the bill. The campaign ads urge legislators to preserve coverage expansions and vote against the Senate’s bill (one of the ads is embedded below).

The campaign calls for Republican legislators to “go back to the drawing board,” AHA President Rick Pollack said, Bloomberg reports.The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 22 million more people would be uninsured by 2026 under the Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) of 2017. The bill and its predecessor, the House’s American Health Care Act, were widely panned by major provider and patient advocacy groups.

“This bill would take us back in time, leaving over 20 million uninsured and creating a system that is not available or accessible to everyone,” Sister Carol Keehan, CEO of the Catholic Health Association, said.

Much of the concern centers on cuts to Medicaid; the bill would roll back expansion beginning in 2020 and replace that with a per capita cap. 

Rod Hochman, M.D., CEO of Providence St. Joseph Health, said in an interview with National Public Radio that “it’s not the time to eviscerate a program that was started back in 1965,” and that much of the discussion on health reform ignores the crucial Medicaid portion.

“I think what gets missed is that this isn’t just about the exchanges,” he said. “It’s about Medicaid.”

The bill is not only unpopular with providers, it’s unpopular with the public. A poll conducted by NPR, PBS News Hour and Marist found that just 17% of Americans approve of the BCRA, while 55% disapprove. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the bill is not backed by many Democrats, but the poll found that just 35% of Republicans responding to the survey support the bill.

RELATED: Delayed vote leaves fate of Senate healthcare bill unclear

Amid party infighting over the bill, Senate Majority Mitch McConnell delayed a vote on it until after the July 4 recess.

But not everyone in the healthcare industry is taking an active role in lobbying against the bill. Though many provider groups have mobilized, others, like some insurance groups, pharmaceuticals and medical devices, are hanging back. They're looking at a broader group of Washington issues that could impact them, like tax reform, and may simply be concerned about how an aggressive attack against the BCRA or the AHCA could impact their future relationship with the federal government, Kim Monk, a managing director at Capital Alpha Partners, which provides political research for investors, told The Washington Post.

“I think first and foremost, they have to think about if they want to play scorched-earth lobbying when they have a lot of things they need to do in Washington,” Monk said. “They want to be careful what they do here—pick their battles.”