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In a Win for America’s Commitment to Healthy Lives, “Skinny Repeal” of Affordable Care Act Fails

Advocates Breathe Sigh of Relief, Urge Lawmakers to Build on ACA

July 28, 2017

Michelle Nicolet, Marketing Director, Shriver Center

CHICAGO (IL)—In a major win for America’s commitment to equal opportunity and upward mobility, the Healthcare Freedom Act (HCFA)—Republican Senators’ most recent attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—failed by a 51-49 vote early Friday morning.

Anti-poverty advocates received the news with great relief on behalf of millions of people around the country who are spared, at least momentarily, from the grave threats posed by Congressional Republicans’ healthcare agenda. Advocates also lauded Senate Democrats for their united front against attacks on the ACA and Medicaid, as well as the three Republican Senators—Lisa Murkowski (R-ME), Susan Collins (R-AK), and John McCain (R-AZ)—who cast deciding votes against the HCFA, known also as “skinny repeal.”

Far from “skinny” in scope, the HCFA, which proposed to defund Planned Parenthood and undo major portions of the ACA, was an aggressive attack on the healthcare of millions. If enacted, the HCFA would have sent the individual marketplace into a death spiral, caused premiums to soar, and undermined the quality of and access to healthcare coverage for millions. A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score released just hours before the vote estimated that the HCFA would have stripped 16 million people of coverage.

The HCFA’s failed vote came in the early hours of the 52nd anniversary of the launch of Medicare and Medicaid—two key pillars of the American healthcare system that have helped hundreds of millions of people receive the care they need to lead healthy, fulfilled lives. Built on the legacy of these programs, the ACA has expanded coverage through extension of Medicaid eligibility and publicly subsidized private insurance. The ACA’s endurance on the anniversary of Medicaid and Medicare underscores the crucial role the federal government plays in ensuring access to coverage.

The fall of the HCFA was the last of three failed votes on major Republican health plans in recent days—signaling a round rejection of the Congressional GOP’s health agenda. These defeats came at the behest of opposition from constituents, community groups, healthcare providers, consumers, and advocates. The pressure against repeal was built and sustained in the months running up to the votes, during a legislative process that was conducted with unprecedented recklessness and secrecy.

Lawmakers have heard from their constituents, and the message has been clear and resounding: everyone should have access to high-quality, affordable healthcare coverage. The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law urges federal lawmakers to move on from their attempts to repeal the ACA and attack Medicaid, back away from attempts to sabotage enrollment, and instead work to effectively implement the ACA and engage in bipartisan reform that builds on the historic progress made by the ACA and Medicaid.


The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law provides national leadership in advancing laws and policies that secure justice to improve the lives and opportunities of people living in poverty. We specialize in practical solutions. We advocate for and serve clients directly, while also building the capacity of the nation’s legal aid providers to advance justice and opportunity for their clients.

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