Reprinted with permission from Alternet.
The latest Trumpcare bill released by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is a political dealmakerâs version of putting lipstick on a pigâtaking a colossally destructive bill hurting tens of millions and dressing it up so it can win enough votes to pass.
A side-by-sideÂ comparisonÂ of the text reveals that the GOP hasnât budged an inch in its intention to cut federal subsidies of state-run Medicaid by one-third, which will severely hit the poor, single mothers with children and seniors in nursing homes.
For those buying private insurance, in addition to ending federal Obamacare subsidies, by incorporating more deregulation from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, anyone who is not youthful and naturally healthy will see premiums rise while what is covered in those plans will shrink. That translates into a double hit, on employers buying coverage for employees and on families and individuals facing higher out-of-pocket costs in emergencies.
McConnellâs new bill still ends Obamacareâs provisions that stopped insurers from rejecting people with pre-existing conditions, which is almost everybody over age 50. It reinstitutes lifetime coverage caps for insurers, which will leave people exposed to medical bankruptcy. And it eliminates Obamacareâs requirement that commercial insurance policies cover essential benefits, like maternity care.
âI knew this bill was unfixable. What I didn’t count on was that it would get worse,âÂ tweetedÂ Andy Slavitt, who ran Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act for President Obama. âThere is an even bigger endorsement of higher deductibles with new catastrophic plan provision.â
Digging deeper into McConnellâs bill, one finds apparent giveaways to try to wrest votes from Republicans who are on the fence for completely different reasons. On the furthest right, the inclusion of Cruzâs amendment will create two risk poolsâone for regular policyholders and another for the very sick. People who want wide protection against chronic, catastrophic and life-threatening illnesses will be priced out of the market under the far right’s fictitious banner of giving people more âfreedom.â
Also pandering to the tax-cutting and make-the-rich-even-richer wing of the party is the fact that McConnellâs latest bill preserves 80 percent of the taxes that earlier versions were going to repeal. Thatâs being portrayed in some mainstream media accounts as an improvement and something less than an outright giveaway, which is ludicrous. The hundreds of billions that will be taken away from Medicaid will offset these taxes.
The bill also seeks to win the support of senators from Ohio and West Virginia by putting in more money for opioid addiction treatment, and boosting state subsidies for Florida, Louisiana and other red states. It also creates a $100 billion tax break for people who open health care savings accounts, enlarging the role for those fee-skimming middlemen with an option that only people with high enough incomes can afford to establish and use. And the McConnell bill also creates another industry giveaway, a $70 billion account to shore up insurers against the economic turbulence the rest of this bill will create.
The national trade association for insurance companies is not impressed by any of this, realizing that the GOPâs âfixesâ are going to turn them into the most hated industry in Americaâas if multitudes from coast to coast hadnât already lost their patience with rising premiums, co-pays and deductibles before 2016âs ârepeal and replaceâ charade. Their lobby group, AHIP, or Americaâs Health Insurance Plans,Â railedÂ against Cruzâs proposals in lobbyist-speak earlier this week, in a press release with the sub-heading, âPolicies that increase uncertainty or threaten instability should be avoided.â
AHIP concluded, âThe individual market faces well-documented challenges to stability, including higher premiums, lower-than-expected enrollment, fewer plan choices, and risk pool problems in certain states and markets. Policy solutions exist to create more stability in the market by reducing premiums and attracting enrollment of younger and healthier individuals. In this context, it is important that policymakers avoid policies that threaten to further increase uncertainty or threaten stability. Such policies include opening up non-compliant plans to new enrollees, bifurcating the risk pool, or allowing plans covered by different rules to compete in the same market.â
This isnât Bernie Sanders; this is the insurance lobby. As for Sanders, he posted aÂ videoÂ on his Twitter page saying this GOP-created insanity is making the strongest possible case for a national singer-payer, Medicare-for-all system. “The UK can do it, Canada can do it, France can do it, Scandinavia can do it,â he said.
Meanwhile, other Washington-based health consumer lobbyists said the time has come to trash the GOP and start bipartisan talks about creating a system that meets peopleâs needs. How that will happen, when the GOP wrote this bill in secret and ducked meetings with their constituents is anybodyâs guess. But that is the line being offered on Thursday.
âTodayâs release of the updatedÂ Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA)Â confirms what we already knew: this broken bill canât be fixed,â said Joe Baker, president of the Medicare Rights Center. âThis tweaked BCRA still ends Medicaid as we know it, and it still yanks health coverage out from under millions of Americans, including older adults, people with disabilities and those with pre-existing conditions.â
âMost AmericansÂ opposeÂ the BCRAâs untenable cuts to Medicaid and its disregard for the families who need guaranteed, affordable health coverage,” Baker continued. “In drafting the BCRA, Senate leaders have avoided public debate, hearings and even their own constituentsâ¦ The American people have asked for, and deserve, an open, bipartisan approach to making health care more affordable for everyone.â
What comes next in this process? The Congressional Budget Office will score the bill, meaning it will say how many people will be hurt by the cuts in government subsidies and coverage cuts, and how many will benefit from tax cuts and other giveaways. Then McConnell will try to bring the bill to the floor, where if necessary, he will introduce more vote-getting amendments that will not be reviewed by the CBO.
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