Senate Health Care Bill Includes Deep Cuts to Medicaid

By Robert Pear and Thomas Kaplan
The New York Times, June 22, 2017

Senate Republicans, who have promised a repeal of the Affordable Care Act for seven years, took a major step on Thursday toward that goal, unveiling a bill to cut Medicaid deeply and end the health law’s mandate that most Americans have health insurance.

The 142-page bill would create a new system of federal tax credits to help people buy health insurance, while offering states the ability to drop many of the benefits required by the Affordable Care Act, like maternity care, emergency services and mental health treatment.

The Senate bill — once promised as a top-to-bottom revamp of the health bill passed by the House last month — instead maintains its structure, with modest adjustments. The Senate version is, in some respects, more moderate than the House bill, offering more financial assistance to some lower-income people to help them defray the rapidly rising cost of private health insurance.

But the Senate measure, like the House bill, would phase out the extra money that the federal government has provided to states as an incentive to expand eligibility for Medicaid. And like the House measure, it would put the entire Medicaid program on a budget, ending the open-ended entitlement that now exists.

It would also repeal virtually all the tax increases imposed by the Affordable Care Act to pay for itself, in effect handing a broad tax cut to the affluent, paid for by billions of dollars sliced from Medicaid, a health care program that serves one in five Americans, not only the poor but almost two-thirds of those in nursing homes. The bill, drafted in secret, is likely to come to the Senate floor next week, and could come to a vote after 20 hours of debate.

https://www.nytimes.com…

H.R. 1628 – “Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017”:
https://www.budget.senate.gov…

Senate Budget Committee overview of H.R. 1628 (highly deceptive rhetoric):
https://www.budget.senate.gov/bettercare

No surprises. The discussion draft of the Senate repeal and replace legislation reveals that the legislators would reverse some of the beneficial features of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which we knew, but the most important measure is the deep reduction in Medicaid funding, allowing them to repeal the tax increases that have paid for the expanded benefits of ACA.

At this point it does not seem that they have the votes to pass this legislation primarily because it does not repeal the fundamental structure of ACA, though negotiations are still taking place. The intent is to vote on it next week. That is a very short time to resolve deeply held ideological differences within the Republican caucus.

If the bill were to pass and be signed into law, it would open the floodgates of activism on behalf of Medicare for all. The Republicans surely do not want that. Yet a loss with the defeat of this legislation would equate to a phenomenal victory for the Republicans because it would have distracted us from following through on the surge of support for single payer reform that has been escalating this past year.

Even if the bill fails, the numbers who remain uninsured, the financial hardships that even many of the insured are facing, and the expensive and wasteful dysfunction of our fragmented health care financing system should still drive us to demand an improved Medicare for all. We cannot walk away from this pretending that a defeat of the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 would equate to a victory for us. Real victory would be in finally achieving health care justice for all.

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