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McConnell’s Obamacare Replacement Guts Coverage, Raises Costs For Tens Of Millions

Congress Headlines Health Politics

McConnell’s Obamacare Replacement Guts Coverage, Raises Costs For Tens Of Millions

Republicans, Senate majority leader

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

The latest Trumpcare bill released by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is a political dealmaker’s version of putting lipstick on a pig—taking a colossally destructive bill hurting tens of millions and dressing it up so it can win enough votes to pass.

A side-by-side comparison of the text reveals that the GOP hasn’t 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.

McConnell’s new bill still ends Obamacare’s 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 Obamacare’s requirement that commercial insurance policies cover essential benefits, like maternity care.

“I knew this bill was unfixable. What I didn’t count on was that it would get worse,” tweeted Andy Slavitt, who ran Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act for President Obama. “There is an even bigger endorsement of higher deductibles with new catastrophic plan provision.”

Digging deeper into McConnell’s 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 Cruz’s amendment will create two risk pools—one 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 “freedom.”

Also pandering to the tax-cutting and make-the-rich-even-richer wing of the party is the fact that McConnell’s latest bill preserves 80 percent of the taxes that earlier versions were going to repeal. That’s 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 GOP’s “fixes” are going to turn them into the most hated industry in America—as if multitudes from coast to coast hadn’t already lost their patience with rising premiums, co-pays and deductibles before 2016’s “repeal and replace” charade. Their lobby group, AHIP, or America’s Health Insurance Plans, railed against Cruz’s proposals in lobbyist-speak earlier this week, in a press release with the sub-heading, “Policies that increase uncertainty or threaten instability should be avoided.”

AHIP concluded, “The 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.”

This isn’t Bernie Sanders; this is the insurance lobby. As for Sanders, he posted a video 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,” 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 people’s needs. How that will happen, when the GOP wrote this bill in secret and ducked meetings with their constituents is anybody’s guess. But that is the line being offered on Thursday.

“Today’s release of the updated Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) confirms what we already knew: this broken bill can’t be fixed,” said Joe Baker, president of the Medicare Rights Center. “This 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.”

“Most Americans oppose the BCRA’s 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 constituents… The American people have asked for, and deserve, an open, bipartisan approach to making health care more affordable for everyone.”

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.

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s democracy and voting rights. He is the author of several books on elections and the co-author of Who Controls Our Schools: How Billionaire-Sponsored Privatization Is Destroying Democracy and the Charter School Industry (AlterNet eBook, 2016).

This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.




  1. FireBaron July 14, 2017

    Let the damn bill pass. Once these people who have enjoyed having health insurance realize they have lost it because of who they voted for, we will see a definite change in Washington.

    1. docb July 14, 2017

      I would agree if it did not cost so many lives…but this passing would cost $ trillions and quality of lives..


    2. Sand_Cat July 14, 2017

      I wish you were correct, but it’s more likely they’ll blame “Obama and the other liberals.”

    3. Independent1 July 14, 2017

      The problem is, that although there may be millions who see the light, will there be enough who see how the GOP has destroyed their lives to vote enough people into Congress such that in 2018 Congress could override Pence’s veto and reinstate health insurance akin to Obamacare. Because if not, tens of thousands of Americans could have died prematurely before maybe electing a Dem president in 2020 could work with Congress to undo the damage that the GOP healthcare fiasco would inflict on the American populace.

      And what the ignorant idiots in the GOP fail to realize, is that even the healthcare for the wealthy will suffer drastically under the GOP’s plan because it once against foists even their fate onto what care health insurers are willing to pay for (there are a lot of people in the wealthy category who are not wealthy enough to pay out of pocket for what fixing a potentially terminal illness could cost them if their health insurer decided not to continue their coverage).

  2. Aaron_of_Portsmouth July 14, 2017

    Mitch is locked in a vicious feedback loop, trapped in a warped Twilight Zone cycle. Mitch is wandering around in circles in a strange maze of a neighborhood requiring a sense of direction, trying to find his way home, and keeps ending up at the wrong house.
    He and his fellow ninnies can’t figure out a way to craft a replacement because they’re all still blinded by Obama-itis—a debilitating mental illness brought on by hate and scorn of President Obama. The neural pathways are damaged irreversibly, and may eventually lead to some dementia and Alzheimer-like behavior in the more weak-minded Right Wing extremists, particularly those who serve(poor choice of word—parasitize is more apt) in Congress.

  3. Lynda Groom July 14, 2017

    It is certainly no surprise that any health care insurance idea the republicans touch is toxic. Health care for the masses has always been Kryptonite to the party. They don’t believe in the concept that all citizens are in this republic together. Shared responsibility and the belief that we need and care for each other is a foreign idea. And we all know how they feel about foreigners.

  4. old_blu July 15, 2017

    They’ve had 7 years and what they’ve come up with is nothing more than another
    tax windfall for the wealthy. Only this time people will die. Poor people,
    disabled people, children and older people. How pathetic, sad really…


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