Supporting Policy

Voice Your Concerns about the Senate's Better Care Reconciliation Act

A special call to action from SBM President Gary G. Bennett Jr., PhD; President-Elect Sherry Pagoto, PhD; Immediate Past-President James F. Sallis Jr., PhD; Past-President Marian L. Fitzgibbon, PhD; and Past-President Dawn K. Wilson, PhD:

Colleagues and friends,

As you know, the U.S. Senate recently unveiled its plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Their “Better Care Reconciliation Act” was written under a cloak of secrecy, devoid of bipartisan debate and free of consultation with healthcare experts, health system advocates, interest groups, industry representatives, or even a single female senator.

As citizens and scientists, it is our responsibility to fully engage in these healthcare policy debates. This is particularly true for those of us whose work has been supported by federal funding; we have a duty to inform the public and policymakers, particularly when we feel that our input is unwelcome.

That is why we are asking you to do two things, today:

We suggest that you argue for the following:

  • Cover essential health benefits. The Senate bill allows states to opt out of covering essential health benefits, the core package of 10 healthcare services required under the Affordable Care Act. If enacted, many Americans will lose access to outpatient mental health and substance abuse treatment, chronic disease management, and preventive services. The Senate bill would remove the requirement that health plans cover many behavioral medicine services graded “A” and “B” by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
  • Support the Prevention and Public Health Fund. The Senate bill drops funding for the fund beginning this October. This will result in a $1 billion cut for CDC prevention programming, plus another $625 million reduction in funds for state and local programs—many of which are based on behavioral medicine science—for conditions like obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and tobacco use. The fund would have provided almost $15 billion over the next decade for health promotion and disease prevention efforts.

Senate leaders are pushing for a vote later this week, ahead of the July 4 recess. Thus, speed is of the essence. If the Senate plan is enacted, the Congressional Budget Office says 22 million Americans will lose access to their healthcare plans by 2026. Many Americans will be required to pay more for less coverage. The bill would scale back funding for Medicaid, which provides coverage for nearly two-thirds of those in nursing homes and half of U.S. births. The impact of the Senate plan will be disproportionately borne by our most vulnerable Americans—children living in poverty, elderly dual eligible beneficiaries, those living in rural areas, and the disabled. As proposed, the Senate plan is simply unacceptable. Moreover, at a time when Americans’ health could benefit from substantially greater investments in behavioral medicine solutions, the Senate plan devalues our field’s science and practice.

The plan’s potential impacts on patients, populations, and the field demand our engagement.