Jul05

The Fight Aint Over: Democratic Lawnmakers Urge Vigilance On Trumpcare

Categories // LA Focus, Top Stories, Politics Wednesday, 05 July 2017

The Fight Aint Over: Democratic Lawnmakers Urge Vigilance On Trumpcare

With the delay of a vote on Trump and the GOP’s health care bill, Democrats have won a small victory, but the war over healthcare rages on. So just what does the victory mean? One thing’s for sure, lawmakers agree. The bill is not dead—at least not yet.

Meanwhile, growing protests over the controversial bill have led to a heightened awareness of the critical juncture the nation finds itself at in its quest for a healthcare system legislators can agree on. At press, the GOP needed just three votes to pass the bill. Four had publicly stated that they would not vote for the bill with a handful or so more expressing serious concerns.
Senator Dean Heller of Nevada believed the cuts to Medicaid to be too severe. Characterizing the bill as “Obamacare Lite”, Senator Rand Paul said he’d vote no on the bill because it didn’t go far enough, stating that it needs more Obamacare repeal.
Dissuaded by the CBO (Congressional Budget Office) analysis that the bill would mean 22 million Americans would lose their healthcare with the elderly and poor disproportionately hurt, Senator Susan Collins said she would vote against it, tweeting “I want to work w/ my GOP & Dem colleagues to fix the flaws in ACA.”
But for Democrats the line in the sand has been drawn at the word: “repeal”. They say they will meet with GOP lawmakers to discuss changes to former President Barack Obama's signature legislation only if Republicans consider repairing and not repealing the American Care Act. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, however, has been just as resistant, stating that talks with Democrats would be fruitless.
President Trump, who has taken a lead role in getting the legislation passed, invited GOP Senators to the White House to and has said that the bill still needed a little negotiation.
With nearly 40% of L.A. County residents are on Medi-Cal, passage of the bill would have been devastating for L.A. County, while in California Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid provides coverage for 13.5 million. States, in general, would likely be forced to reduce the number people are in their Medicaid programs or offer fewer benefits. But with federal funding projected to drop by 26 percent over 10 years, California would face the biggest losses of any state. 
In fact, California risks losing $114.6 billion in federal funds within a decade for its Medicaid program under the Senate health care bill, a decline that would require the state to completely dismantle and rebuild the public insurance program that now serves one-third of the state.
Three of the Golden State's top Democrats denounced the Republican Senate-promoted Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 making the rounds in the nation's capital during a conference call with media members on the morning of June 27.
Feinstein called the Republican legislation the most indefensible bill she had seen in her 24 years in the Senate. The senator recited the number of Americans that would lose health insurance if the act became law according to a June 26 report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
"Twenty-two million Americans would lose their health coverage by 2026," Feinstein said. "That's between three and four million in California with 1.6 million losing insurance next year. California would see the nation's biggest increase in uninsured people next year.
"I've always believed there are a couple of things that maybe can be fixed with Obamacare, but the basic bill is a good bill," she said. "It has worked and we have over 10 million more Americans with Obamacare today. Well over, probably 20 million by now."
Harris said the health plan gives states a loophole where insurance companies aren't required to cover essential benefits. 
It would not be mandatory to cover treatment for pre-existing conditions," she said. "For example, maternity care for pregnant women, mental health treatment for depression, and outpatient care for folks addicted to drugs including opioid." 
During the 27-minute call, the California lawmakers described the 25-page legislation authored by Republicans in closed-door meetings in Washington D.C. earlier this month as "disastrous" and a "junk plan."
Feinstein said there were no public hearings on the measure and didn't know a single word in it until it was unveiled on June 23. 
"On lesser bills we hold hearings," she said, "but this bill that impacts everybody and one sixth of our economy is done in secret by 12 white men." 
Harris said the act's architects have nothing to be proud of. 
"It's no wonder they did it in secret," she said. "It takes health insurance from millions of people. The combined population of 16 states." 
The senators and Brown said if the bill is legalized in its current form California's health system—Covered California, the state's health exchange, and Medi-Cal, California's safety net health program —would face dire problems including:
•Having to replace around $24 billion in federal monies by 2026 for Medi-Cal.
•Premiums increased by $619.
•One in three or 14 million Californians losing Medi-Cal coverage, including one in two children and special needs people and three in five seniors.
•Hospitals facing $1.6 billion in uncompensated care in 2018. 
•Planned Parenthood barred from receiving federal money. 
•Increase the amount of premium subsidies for younger adults, and reduce the amount for older adults, while allowing subsidies to be used to buy individual plans outside Obamacare exchanges.
•Allow older adults to be charged premiums that are five times higher the premiums charged younger adults, instead of the 3-to-1 ratio established by Obamacare.
•Impose a premium penalty for people who do not maintain continuous health coverage.
•Convert Medicaid funding for states to a block grant system.
•Give states power to request waivers for insurers that allow them to charge people with pre-existing health conditions higher premiums if they let coverage lapse.
•Establishes funding for states that can be used for "high-risk" individuals, or other purposes.
 
"All these cuts are used to make the top one percent richer by giving them billions in tax breaks," Feinstein said. "This is a terrible bill, and we must defeat it." 
Brown said $400 billion of the measure's $700 billion budget reduction would go to tax relief. The governor said if Republicans' goal were to reduce the economy's deficient, they wouldn't give a tax break.
"This is such a political bill," Brown said. "It is very divisive. As I look across the political landscape of California and across the country we're more and more polarized. This is a time when the country should be united. This bill would cut right into the heart of what is a divided nation." 
The trio's tongue-lashing of the Republican legislation fell a day after the CBO announced that the bill would cause 15 million more people to be without insurance compared to the current health law; out-of-pocket expenses and premiums to skyrocket for some low-income Americans and people approaching retirement and reduce Medicaid spending by $772 billion over the next decade, which is something the administration of President Donald Trump said the proposed health market wouldn't do. 
The budget office said average premiums would go down mostly because the insurance citizens would pay for would be less valuable. Most Americans buying insurance under the bill would pay more for their care. A poll by USA Today and Suffolk University released on June 28 found that only 12 percent of Americans support the controversial health plan. Fifty-three percent say Congress should leave the ACA intact or work to fix its problems while leaving its framework alone.
Brown said millions of people will suffer if the legislation becomes law.
"The human impact is we would be a more divided California and more divided America," he said. It's really bad; it’s toxic. I just hope the word reaches Republicans." 
“You’ve not seen this kind of attack on poor people and poor bodies since the days black people were used to make free money as slaves,” said Rev. William Barber— a prominently featured speaker at the Democratic National Convention last summer who has been dubbed as “the closest person we have to a Martin Luther King Jr.”
The Senate bill not only repeals the individual mandate to carry health care coverage, but the employer mandate as well for businesses with at least 50 employees. It also repeals most of the taxes under the ACA that impacted high-income earners and corporations, while cutting federal subsidies and the expansion of Medicaid.
Just recently, Republicans revised the bill to include a penalty aimed at preventing people from signing up for coverage only once they are sick, which most believe would devastate the insurance market.
  “Essentially, if their plan were to go through, you would have millions of people who have coverage now…they would be cut out of pre-existing conditions,” Congresswoman Karen Bass has stated. “The essential health benefits—emergency room visits, pediatric care, substance abuse, mental health—they would make those optional. Even people who were covered by their employer would lose benefits they now have.
“The bill is so unpopular because it provides anything but affordable care. It’s the exact opposite of Robin Hood: it takes from the poor and gives to the rich, cutting $800 billion in Medicaid, eliminating Planned Parenthood funding and basic medical benefits like maternity care and mental health services—all to give the wealthy a tax break.
“I’m not fighting this bill simply because I’m a Democrat. I’m fighting it because it will cost lives.”
According to a recent poll, 62 percent of Americans disapprove of the Republicans' health-care plan with just 17 percent of Americans approving of the plan. 
For now, the vote has been delayed until after the July 4 recess, but with the October 1 deadline for next year’s budget fast approaching, Republicans have little time to waste.
"No amount of tinkering will change the fact that this bill would devastate health care in America, and we can't let that happen," Feinstein said, while encouraging Californians to call on U.S. representatives to vote against dismantling President Barack Obama's signature legislation. “We must keep up the fight against Trumpcare, which offers no care to our most vulnerable,” Sheila Jackson Lee tweeted.
Insiders have said that the plan for now is to try and work out a compromise bill members can review over the July 4 holiday before returning to Washington for the vote.
“The fight ain’t over yet,” tweeted former Congressional Black Caucus Chair G.K. Butterfield. “As Senate GOP scramble for votes on Trumpcare, we must remain vigilant.”
And from Senator Elizabeth Warren, “Let’s be clear. The Republicans’ so-called “healthcare” bill comes back to life more often than the lead zombie in a horror movie.”
 

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