HARTFORD, CT— Calling it “grotesquely cruel,” U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal Monday said he would introduce several amendments on the Senate floor to try and block the Republican health care bill from passing.
“This will be a climatic week to this titanic battle,” Blumenthal said at a press conference at the Legislative Office Building.
Assuming the vote to proceed with debate is successful, Democrats like Blumenthal have vowed to introduce several amendments, which could mean a marathon debate.
Blumenthal, who spent part of last week with fellow U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy listening to people across the state talk about the impact the bill would have on their lives, said he was struck by what one person said.
“He called it not a health care plan but a wealth care plan,” Blumenthal said. He said that label “stuck with me,” because in addition to the bill leaving thousands of Connecticut residents without insurance it removes billions of dollars from Medicaid to support tax cuts for the wealthy.
Blumenthal said his amendments would, specifically, preserve and protect Medicaid, stop defunding of Planned Parenthood, and maintain essential health benefits.
The bill, according to Blumenthal and 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.
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.
The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on the bill this week. 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.
The Congressional Budget Office is expected to release its analysis of the legislation soon.