Senate Republicans had little choice but to slow down on health care; they lacked enough votes to pass their bill. It was also the right thing to do. Rushing through this unvetted plan is a prescription for disaster. Political victories cannot take priority over the medical care of hundreds of millions of people.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell put in front of his chamber a proposal that was opposed by every major health care advocacy organization, from those representing doctors and nurses to those representing hospitals and patients.
Polls show most Americans oppose it. President Donald Trump called the House version, which is kinder than the Senate version, “mean, mean, mean.” And trying to pass the long-sought Obamacare repeal and replacement with no meaningful hearings, expert testimony or debate only bolstered the argument that it is designed mostly to give tax cuts to the rich, an argument supported by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office report released Monday. Forty-five percent of the benefit is going to families with annual incomes of more than $875,000.
The $321 billion in deficit reduction the bill would provide over a decade is welcome, but the loss of insurance for 22 million people would be catastrophic. So would be the severe cost increases for older and sicker consumers.
Banning the reimbursement of Planned Parenthood for services to patients who get insurance from Medicaid or other federal plans would leave women with no broad reproductive health services in 105 counties across the nation. And a per-person cap on federal Medicaid reimbursements would not take into account the hugely expensive needs of elderly Americans, the nation’s fastest-growing demographic. These seniors often depend on Medicaid, which pays for two-thirds of nursing home care.
However, Republicans supporting the GOP plan say attacks on it aren’t true. They claim the new law would give people more coverage options, such as plans that don’t cover everything, and that market forces would bring down prices. If it’s so much better, why not hold hearings and town halls to allow senators to explain all the benefits of the bill? The Senate would have the opportunity to give us a math lesson. How does cutting federal spending on health care by $1 trillion and cutting taxes on the wealthy by $700 billion bring more and better care?
How does pulling that much money out of health care not cost millions of jobs and cause hospitals and nursing homes to be shuttered? How does capping per-patient Medicaid spending at the rate of inflation make sense when Alzheimer’s disease diagnoses are increasing at twice that rate and care of each Alzheimer’s patient is costing 10 times more than the Medicaid per-patient average? How does leaving our most helpless people without care improve care?
If the Congressional Budget Office is wrong when it says defunding Planned Parenthood would lead to thousands more pregnancies among poor women each year, and thus tens of millions of dollars more in Medicaid spending on births and child care, GOP senators need to explain how.
If they can explain, they must do so.