HARTFORD, CT— It fundamentally alters the Medicaid program, rolls back protections for women, children, the disabled, and patients with preexisting conditions, and according to one U.S. Senator is “even meaner” than the House version.
“I just can’t understand why anyone would run for office to do something so cruel,” U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy said hours after the draft bill was finally released Thursday by Senate Republicans. “Donald Trump was right – this really is mean, and in many ways this bill is meaner than the House bill.”
The 142-page bill, according to Murphy, would charge sick people more for health care, force millions of people to lose their health insurance, and prevent millions of people from accessing treatment for addiction amid the opioid crisis – all to pay for huge tax cuts for the wealthy and insurance company executives.
Connecticut, which was one of more than a dozen states to embrace the Affordable Care Act from the onset, has a lot to lose if this version becomes law. The biggest impact will be felt by the low-income and poor residents who participate in the Medicaid program.
More than one in five Connecticut residents rely on the Medicaid program, which is for low-income families, children, the disabled and the elderly. Connecticut was the first state in the nation to take advantage of Medicaid expansion which covered those up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
Currently, there are about 770,000 Medicaid recipients in Connecticut and more than 220,00 gained access to Medicaid through the expansion program. The draft bill would phase out the federal reimbursement to the state for the Medicaid program, which is now at 90 percent, by the end of 2019. That means Connecticut would have to find some way to pick up the costs or change the eligibility and benefits offered under the program.
“Medicaid will be eviscerated,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said. “Make no mistake, people will needlessly die under this plan.”
Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, who has spearheaded the state’s health care efforts, estimated the state could lose about $1 billion in federal funding under the proposal.
Murphy said Connecticut is already facing a budget deficit and this legislation will only make it worse. He said it would be a “fiscal disaster for the state.”
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who along with Murphy, will continue to hear about how the proposed legislation will impact their constituents Friday at a town hall meeting in New Haven, said simply “the bill guts Medicaid—throwing children and families who rely on this critical program to the wolves.”
The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on the unpopular bill next week, but Blumenthal and Murphy are trying to put the brakes on it by convincing moderate Republicans how detrimental it will be to their constituents.
The bill needs 50 votes for approval, which means Democrats only have to convince two Republican Senators to vote against it.
Murphy said he doesn’t believe Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has the votes today, but “he’s really close.”
He said they’re going to do everything they can to put pressure on the Senate Republicans who have reservations about the draft legislation.
“We still think we can stop this from devastating this country,” Murphy said.
He said he doesn’t believe the opposition expressed by the conservative Republicans is sincere.
“If you’re counting on Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Ron Johnson to save the American health care system then don’t hold your breath,” Murphy said.
For those expecting a repeal of the Affordable Care Act that’s not what the draft Senate Republican draft does.
The bill doesn’t get rid of the insurance exchanges, the government subsidies for purchasing health care, but it eliminates the individual mandate and shifts the cost of the system. The new system created under the Senate bill would essentially favor young people who don’t have to use insurance because they are healthy. Those who would be penalized would be those who are older and need to use the insurance because they are sicker.
The draft Senate bill would allow insurers to charge older consumers five times more than younger ones. Under the Affordable Care Act it was only three times as much.
But it also pushes most of the changes to 2020, so many of the current lawmakers would be able to win reelection before the true impact of the legislation would be felt.
However, Murphy and Blumenthal are also concerned about what happens if the Senate version isn’t approved. They fear Trump would dismantle the Affordable Care Act through executive order.
“I really worry that President Trump who has already taken steps to destabilize the insurance markets will go even deeper if he doesn’t get what he wants next week,” Murphy said.
Blumenthal said Trump has the power to unilaterally “eviscerate” the ACA and right now they have already begun to “sabotage it.”
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price issued a statement in support of the Republican measure.
“The Senate’s proposal is built on patient-centered reforms that put the American people in charge of their healthcare decisions, not government, protecting patients, bringing down the cost of coverage, and expanding choices,” Price said.
The House version of the bill is much more unpopular with the American public than the Affordable Care Act, according to a newly released Kaiser Family Foundation poll.
The poll found 30 percent of the public likes the Republican American Health Care Act, while 51 percent of the public likes the Affordable Care Act.
Republican support, while still favorable, has also waned, according to the poll.
The poll found an 11 percent decrease in support for the AHCA among Republicans. However, 56 percent of Republicans say they still have a favorable view of the replacement plan.
“While attitudes towards both the ACA and the Republican replacement plan are driven by partisanship, there is a partisan intensity gap,” the poll found. “About half of Democrats (53 percent) have a “very favorable” view of the ACA, while far fewer Republicans – about one-fifth (21 percent) –have a “very favorable” view of the Republican replacement plan.”