Senate leaders decided to postpone a vote on the Graham-Cassidy healthcare bill Tuesday, a choice celebrated by provider groups that overwhelmingly opposed the legislation.
American Hospital Association President Rick Pollack said in a statement that the response to the legislation was the same as for previous GOP bills because "instead of fixing the very real problems facing our healthcare system, this proposal would only have exacerbated them."
"As we stated following the Senate’s rejection of the 'skinny repeal' bill in July, the failure of this proposal shouldn’t be a victory for one side or a loss for the other, but rather a catalyst to spark meaningful solutions," Pollack said.
The AHA's call for bipartisan health reform was echoed in other responses from provider groups. Michael Munger, M.D., president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, said in a statement that future negotiations should focus on "amending and improving" the Affordable Care Act instead of repealing it.
Munger said the AAFP will continue to work with lawmakers on health reform solutions, but that it would be unable to back any bill that would strip people of insurance coverage and reduce access to care.
"We urge the Senate to focus on improving current law in ways that expand access to affordable coverage, reconnect patients back to primary care, stabilize insurance markets and begin to lower health care costs," he said. "There are bipartisan solutions to challenges we face, and the AAFP stands ready to partner with the House and Senate to identify, develop and implement those solutions."
Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard Tyson expressed similar sentiments during one of several bipartisan hearings held by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions to discuss the future of health reform. Tyson said that payers would likely return to the ACA's exchanges if the government addressed several key issues, including cost-sharing reduction payments.
Though the committee wasn't necessarily in agreement on the finer details following the four hearings, its members seemed to be in general consensus on several fixes to shore up the embattled ACA. Discussions on the Graham-Cassidy bill quickly sidelined these bipartisan talks, although they could resume now that the latest repeal iteration is off the table.
The Senate's decision to postpone a vote on the Graham-Cassidy measure leaves the future of the Republicans' plans to repeal the ACA in doubt. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., one of the bill's co-sponsors, said that the bill would make a comeback in a process that "gives a little more attention and time" to discussion. The Graham-Cassidy bill would replace the ACA with block grants to states that would help people pay for healthcare.
I’m very confident it’s not a matter of IF we pass #GrahamCassidy-Heller-Johnson....— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) September 27, 2017
it’s only a matter of WHEN.
The American Psychological Association and AARP also cheered the Senate's retreat from Graham-Cassidy.
“The Senate leadership’s decision to not bring the Graham-Cassidy bill up for a vote shows that the voices of the American people are very powerful," AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond said in a statement. "The bill would have increased costs, reduced coverage and expanded the ranks of the uninsured by millions."
But doctors didn't mince words when it came to the current status of the ACA. Brian Hill, M.D., an Atlanta urologist, told CNN that both the ACA and Graham-Cassidy do "a miserable job in helping people get healthcare."
"It's rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic," Kevin Campbell, M.D., a North Carolina cardiologist who works with young doctors on setting up practices, told the outlet.