Thursday, 14 December, 2017

GOP Senators Call for More Time to Debate, Change Health Care Bill

Kristopher Nichols | 26 June, 2017, 13:10

House Republicans have passed their health care bill, and Senate GOP leaders are driving toward a vote next week. They came up with five key issues to watch. Senate Republican leaders may rely on the deal-making former businessman to lean on conservative senators who are balking at the bill. Indeed, candidate Trump had started out promising no cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.

Former President Barack Obama criticized a Republican Senate bill proposed Thursday that would repeal and replace parts of his signature Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, calling the measure bad for Americans and saying that it has "fundamental meanness" at its core. The legislation would phase out federal funding for Medicaid expansion - now covering about 11 million people in 31 states - beginning in 2020, and shift more of those costs back to states. That program is jointly funded by the states and the federal government.

The bill would cut and redesign the Medicaid program for low-income and disabled people, and erase taxes on higher earners and the medical industry that helped pay for the roughly 20 million Americans covered by Obama's law.

But somewhat ironically, it would actually increase the federal role in health insurance regulation by creating a new office at Health and Human Services to oversee the association health plans and their certification.

MARTIN: So what does the Senate bill do?

AHIP represents Anthem Inc, one of the largest sellers of health insurance on the Obamacare exchanges, and Cigna Corp, among others.

And like the House bill, it would pay for those cuts by dramatically reducing federal money for Medicaid, likely forcing states to make deep cuts in their health care programs for the poor.

The proposal released Thursday calls for a slower phase-out of the Medicaid expansion than a bill adopted earlier by the House.

But the rollbacks would likely end coverage for buprenorphine and methadone treatment for people who are now covered, since New Mexico will likely opt not to shoulder the cost of continuing to provide these services without a federal mandate to do so. "They're not addressing the root cause", he said, referring to rising health care costs. Interestingly, the people who have been most hurt by the Affordable Care Act are the people who earn too much to get tax credits but they buy their own insurance. Medicaid funding would be capped on a per-person basis.

In Oregon, lawmakers this week passed a health care tax meant to fix a $1.4 billion, two-year budget deficit attributed largely to Medicaid expansion costs. He said leaders were well aware of the policy priorities he has been pushing for the bill for many months.

Well, it's hard to say that you like the uniforms of the team that's got the guns pointed at you, trying to kill you.

For all others, the ACA offered two options. The Senate version doesn't appear to be much nicer.

"The health care bill would be so great if the Democrats and Republicans could get together, wrap their arms around it so that everybody is happy with it", Trump said.

James Winkler, a retired physician, waves a placard during a protest in Denver on June 23, 2017, targeting the Republican health bill. Medicaid provides health care not just for the indigent and disabled but also for the working poor - low-wage employees who can not afford health insurance, even the plans offered through their jobs. That helps keep premium costs in check.

The Senate bill would eliminate cost-sharing subsidies entirely. Layer upon layer of laws, rules and regulations have made our health care-financing system a complex mess, separating patients from direct payment for health care.

Abolishing the health-care law's mandate with no penalty for coverage lapses would destabilize the individual insurance market by leading healthy people to drop their coverage, leaving insurance companies with sicker, more costly plan members in their enrollee risk pool. "There's less revenue and more need", Clunies-Ross said.

Bill Underriner, president of Underriner Motors in Billings, serves on the national board for the American Cancer Society. He is one of four GOP senators to say they are opposed it but are open to negotiations, which could put the measure in immediate jeopardy.

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