After weeks of partisan debate, closed-door negotiations and fluctuating vote counts, the U.S. Senate
failed to pass its health care bill, the Health Care
Freedom Act, by a 49-51 vote in the early morning
hours of July 28.
“The American Academy of Pediatrics is grateful
for the Senate’s decision not to advance the Health
Care Freedom Act,” said AAP President Fernando
Stein, M.D., FAAP, in a press statement. “The bill
included dangerous policies that would have left
children and families worse off and set the stage for
drastic cuts to Medicaid and private insurance.”
With the Senate’s health care bill in the rearview,
the Academy is urging bipartisan solutions for chil-
dren and families. With any health care legislation
that advances, pediatricians will continue to advo-
cate for policies that build on the historic progress
made in children’s health care coverage and ensure
coverage is affordable, accessible and comprehensive.
“Today, we pause and reflect on what worked, then
look forward to the next steps,” said Dr. Stein in
a message sent to all AAP members following the
Senate’s failed vote on health care.
One of the Academy’s main advocacy priorities
for the near future is the extension of funding for
the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP),
which is set to expire on Sept. 30. The Academy
is urging Congress to fund a five-year extension of
CHIP without delay, so states can plan their budgets and families can be assured of their children’s
CHIP covers children in working families whose
parents earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but
who earn too little to afford private insurance. Currently, the program provides health care coverage to
nearly 9 million children.
Congress also will need to pass legislation by Sept.
30 to fund the federal government for the next fiscal year to avoid a government shutdown. Congress
could pass a continuing resolution, or short-term
spending agreement, before the deadline to keep the
government open until a final appropriations bill is
The Academy will continue to urge that children
are prioritized in any short- or long-term funding
decisions and is calling on members to join its advocacy efforts. For the latest information on AAP
federal policy priorities and advocacy opportunities,
sign up to become an AAP Key Contact by emailing
AAP advocacy journey
Since the beginning of 2017, pediatricians have
been advocating in record numbers to protect children’s health care coverage, which helped lay the
foundation needed to sustain a strong, consistent
voice of opposition to several iterations of the Senate’s health care bill. Over this span, AAP members
reacted to nearly 20 action alerts from the Academy
related to the health care debate, and the Academy
issued and joined 13 press statements to get on the
record about its position.
During the week leading up to the final vote, the
Academy joined a letter with the American Academy
of Family Physicians, American College of Physicians, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Osteopathic Association and
American Psychiatric Association urging senators to
vote no on a motion to repeal or repeal and replace
the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with any alternative
that would roll back coverage and patient protections and eliminate access to care for tens of millions
Although the Senate cleared the procedural hurdle, the vote margin was thin. Soon after, rumors of
a “skinny” bill to repeal the ACA made headlines.
The bill materialized as the Health Care Freedom Act
just hours before the Senate was set for its final vote.
Meanwhile, pediatricians continued to weigh in
through calls and tweets to their senators’ offices.
The Academy engaged its full membership and Key
Contact Network in grassroots efforts, and sent communications to AAP chapter leaders from key legislative target states and AAP committee, council and
section leaders. The day before the vote, the Arizona
Chapter sent a letter to Sen. John McCain urging
him to oppose the Senate’s bill to repeal the ACA.
The message from pediatricians to senators was
clear: Vote no on any legislation that would cut Medicaid and jeopardize health care coverage for children
and families. In a matter of days, it was apparent that
those advocacy efforts had paid off.
Ultimately, Sen. McCain and Sens. Lisa Murkow-ski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) broke
from the Republican party to vote against the bill,
keeping the legislation from garnering enough votes
The moment likely will go down in political history for its dramatic denouement following years
of Republican elected officials vowing to repeal and
replace the ACA and six months of the same by the
“Your efforts proved the remarkable impact a
group of people can make when they come together and stand up for the voiceless — children whose
lives were at stake, children who came to Washington
with their families to share their stories because they
knew what they had to lose, children who count on
you to speak up for them in the walls of your clinics
and the halls of the Capitol,” said Dr. Stein.
by Devin Miller • Washington Correspondent
Before the Senate’s vote on its health care bill, Margaret Stager, M.D., FAAP, met with staff in the office
of Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) to urge senators to
protect children’s health care coverage.
What’s next after pediatrician advocacy helps
defeat Senate health care bill
Visit Advocacy Action Center
at National Conference
If you are attending the AAP National Conference & Exhibition this month in Chicago,
check out the Advocacy Action Center in the
central concourse of McCormick Place West.
Learn how pediatricians are making a difference and influencing policy in their communities, states and in Washington.
Conference attendees can write their own
“prescriptions for strong child health policies”
on a giant prescription pad and share those
recommendations with their elected officials.