The U.S. Senate passed a budget resolution (S Con Res 3) on Thursday, which instructs the four congressional committees with jurisdiction over health care to draft the bill repealing parts of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (known as the ACA) by January 27, 2017. The House passed the measure on Friday.
It is important to note that this January 27 deadline for a repeal measure is merely advisory. This budget resolution contains instructions that will put committees to work on repeal language in reconciliation bills. Section 2001 instructs the Finance and Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committees to “report changes in laws within its jurisdiction to reduce the deficit” by no less than $1 billion over the next 10 years. Under this plan, a repeal measure could be on President-elect Trump’s desk as early as February. However, plans to repeal the ACA may extend past this deadline. It is also important to note that only certain sections of the ACA can be repealed via this reconciliation process. For example, it is unclear whether the sections on colorectal cancer screening and/or preventive services will be impacted via the reconciliation process.
A group of Republican senators sought to delay the target release date of a repeal measure to March 3, but this amendment was withdrawn. There are Republicans both in the Senate and the House that already have expressed reservations about repealing the ACA with no alternatives as a replacement. Another issue impacting the timing of the ACA repeal is the confirmation of Rep. Tom Price, MD as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dr. Price will appear next week before the U.S. Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, followed by the Finance Committee at a later date. However, a confirmation vote is not expected until the middle of February.
President-elect Donald Trump noted on Wednesday that the new administration would propose a repeal and replacement plan, which could be offered as soon as the new HHS secretary is approved. President-elect Trump also indicated that the administration would propose a plan for Medicare negotiation of drug prices.
Whitfield L. Knapple, MD, FACG
Chair, ACG National Affairs Committee