I am encouraged that the Senate has postponed a vote on the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA). The bill is deeply flawed, and I fervently hope that the Senate will shelve the proposal for good.
It has taken the country far too long to solve the challenge of expanding health care coverage to ensure that all Americans have timely access to comprehensive, high-quality care that is affordable regardless of any pre-existing conditions. We have been debating this question for decades, and during the delay countless Connecticut residents have suffered due to inadequate access to care.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is not perfect, but it achieved key reforms related to pre-existing conditions while significantly increasing the number of Americans with health insurance through the private market or Medicaid. There are currently about 98,000 Connecticut residents receiving health insurance through the exchange established by the ACA, and more than 194,000 qualify for Medicaid due to the expansion authorized by the ACA. We should be proud that Connecticut ranks 9th among states in having 94 percent of residents enjoying health insurance coverage.
The BCRA would reverse those gains. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 22 million more Americans would lack health insurance by 2026. The impact would be felt across all age groups too young to receive Medicare. The burden would be greatest among the poorest citizens, but middle class households would also be affected.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the BCRA would reduce federal spending on Medicaid by 26 percent in 2026. This would lead to a 16 percent decline in enrollment in Medicaid nationwide, leaving some of our most vulnerable citizens without affordable access to health care.
In Connecticut, the cost for sustaining access to Medicaid would be substantial— the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities forecasts that Connecticut would need to raise state spending by $95 million in 2021 and $844 million in 2024 to preserve current benefits and enrollments. Most troubling of all, the Senate bill is designed to penalize states such as Connecticut that strive to provide meaningful health care coverage to residents who depend on Medicaid.
Now is not the time to abandon our progress on legislating affordable health insurance. The Senate should reject the Better Care Reconciliation Act, and begin in earnest the task of drafting a bill that the citizens of our state and our nation—rich or poor, old or young, sick or healthy— can embrace.