HARTFORD, CT — Nearly 50 Connecticut residents signed up to tell U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal to do what he can to protect the Affordable Care Act because the consequences of the American Health Care Act are cruel.
Blumenthal called for the “emergency field hearing” because the dozen or so Republican Senators working on modifying the American Health Care Act that the House passed last month are not operating in public.
Later today, Democratic members of the U.S. Senate are expected hold the Senate floor until at least midnight, according to Politico. Partly, to point out the failings of the parts of the legislation that are public and partly to chide their Republican colleagues for not holding any hearings.
At the state Capitol Monday, Blumenthal got an earful from healthcare advocates, and individuals who struggled to get care for themselves or their loved ones under the current system.
Parents like Jennifer Kelly, who struggled to get her daughter into a treatment program for her heroin addiction, believes it will only get worse under the American Health Care Act.
“This kid really wanted help, but each time she was denied I had to watch her walk out the door never knowing if I would see her again,” Kelly said.
Blumenthal said he would take Kelly’s story with him to Washington.
Republicans “will have to think twice as this outpouring of voices and faces around the country come forward to say this measure is cruel and costly beyond words,” Blumenthal said.
He said if the Senate accepts 80 percent of the House bill then 18 million Americans, instead of 23 million who will lose insurance.
Sheldon Toubman, an attorney with New Haven Legal Assistance, said the American Health Care Act destroys Medicaid expansion because it guarantees those who currently qualify will lose their coverage. If they don’t lose it because they were unable to find a way to have continuous coverage, then they will lose it when the state is forced to cut eligibility or benefits because it is not receiving the same amount of money from the federal government.
Under the American Health Care Act, they could also lose Medicaid coverage because of work requirements, he added.
“This poster here says healthcare is a human right, not a commodity or privilege,” Toubman said pointing to the wall at the standing-room only hearing.
He said that means people who are too sick to work will not get coverage and it’s “completely an affront to that basic principle.”
The American Health Care Act cuts $834 billion cut in Medicaid over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office report. The U.S. Senate version of the bill is expected to adopt about 80 percent of what the House bill included.
“The president said the House bill is mean, well 80 percent of mean is still mean,” Toubman said.
Blumenthal said Republicans should just build on the Affordable Care Act, instead of repealing it.
“The harm is devastating if it is like the House bill,” Blumenthal said.
Ellen Andrews, executive director of the Connecticut Health Policy Project, said health costs are up 20 percent since 2010.
She said there’s nothing in the American Health Care Act that lowers costs or makes care more affordable for anybody who “is not a multi-millionaire.”
But it gets worse. Andrews said if Connecticut loses $1 billion in Medicaid funding then the problem goes beyond health care. She said she finds it hard to believe with the current budget crisis that the state will be able to make up for such a loss without more devastating cuts or a tax increase.
Connecticut Healthcare Advocate Ted Doolittle said the fundamental problem facing the country is the high costs of health care and that wasn’t touched sufficiently by the Affordable Care Act and it’s not touched at all by the American Health Care Act.
Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, who was unable to testify in person, said in written testimony that the American Health Care Act is not “a healthcare plan, it was a tax cut for the wealthiest Americans. One that comes at the expense of everyone else. We must work together to improve the ACA, not retreat to partisan corners, and not bring to vote a bill that increases costs for citizens with pre-existing conditions, or older adults that don’t yet qualify for Medicare, or women, or low-wage earners.”
Blumenthal said they have to stop the American Health Care Act before it reaches President Donald Trump’s desk.
Senate Republican President Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said if Blumenthal was interested in solutions then he would have invited Republicans to testify Monday.
“Instead of reaching out to those on both sides of the aisle to discuss solutions, today’s event was orchestrated as a political event meant to deliver a one-sided message and wrongly promised those who came out that it would lead to change,” Fasano said. “If we want to fix the state’s failing healthcare system, we have to work together and move politics out of the way.”