Friday, June 23, 2017

Lost in the noise - the Senate is close to repealing Obamacare

If you haven't noticed by now the Senate is trying to pass a repeal of the Affordable Care Act (a/k/a "Obamacare") that looks a lot like the House bill that passed - which is estimated to kick 23 million people off of insurance if enacted.

Let's not forget there are a lot of people who thought "Hey, the Senate just won't pass a bill like that".  I know more than a few of them.  However, the GOP is trying to use a "budget reconciliaton" maneuver that would only require 50 votes plus Pence, and avoid a filibuster avoiding 60 votes.  The Senate parlimentarian has not yet ruled on the merits of this maneuver.  The thing is, the GOP is scary close to passing it if it can use reconciliation.  The Times has a good overview of what the bill is all about, as does NPR.  Here's just a few highlights of what happens under the bill:

  • Medicaid funding is dramatically reduced, and not just for states that expanded coverage.  Almost 40% of all U.S. children are currently covered by Medicaid, and 76% of poor children rely on it.   Half of all births are covered by Medicaid, and 40% of poor adults rely on it.
  • Repeals low-income subsidies to help pay for health care, including for premiums and deductibles.
  • Pre-existing conditions would likely be impacted.  States could apply to waive mandatory coverage requirements, like maternity benefits, prescription drugs or addiction treatment.  This means some items that would otherwise be subject to the "can't deny insurance for pre-existing condition" rule might simply just not be covered by insurance.
  • Medicare would no longer be required to cover mental health.  
  • Insurers could charge older Americans 5 times more than younger ones.
  • Planned Parenthood would be blocked from being reimbursed, even for routine health care.
  • Repeal of Obamacare taxes on incomes over $200k, as well as taxes on medical devices, prescription drugs and indoor tanning.  These taxes were in part used to help fund the expansion of Medicaid, a huge factor in driving down the number of uninsured Americans.
There's more - I haven't even gotten into what happens to the ban on lifetime coverage caps, the impact to people with disabilities, people in nursing homes, and so on.  Read the Times article and the NPR article for a full picture.  

You don't need a CBO score to know that lots of people will lose insurance under this bill, and it is the most poor and vulnerable who get hit the hardest, with higher income earners getting tax cuts and increases in ability to put money into HSAs.  And it's just a mean, selfish bill.

Here's a rundown of where each GOP Senator stands on the bill.  Let's make our voices heard in opposition to this terrible bill, and let's support single payer in California.

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