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Monday, June 5, 2017

Health Care Repeal: The Senate’s 80 Percent Solution

Craig Obey

Deputy Executive Director & Chief Operating Officer

When the House of Representatives passed its highly irresponsible and unpopular American Health Care Act, senators were quick to distance themselves from it. In the face of reports the bill would deny coverage to 23 million people, they said the Senate would write its own bill.  

But now, the Senate Republicans’ chief vote counter, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, has told reporters that “80 percent of what the House did we’re likely to do.” 

So, it appears the Senate may engage in the same partisan politics that are bad for our nation’s families, and the bill may end up looking a lot like the House bill.

All of which begs the question: What, exactly, might it mean to do “80 percent of what the House did”?

Does that mean the Senate will eliminate health care for 18.4 million people instead of 23 million? 

Or, perhaps they will “only” cut Medicaid coverage by $672 billion instead of $840 billion

Or, maybe the Senate plan will only cut 80 percent of the 1.1 million jobs that estimates show would be lost by 2023 if the Medicaid expansion were to end?

Whatever magic formula the Senate produces, it will no doubt be accompanied by a surreal rollout, where the public is told that hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to coverage and care will not hurt people and that giving those same billions to the richest people in the form of tax cuts will produce a magical economic benefit for our country.

A politically astute philosopher once said, “Have you ever noticed that, when a politician gets an idea, he usually gets it all wrong?” This adage may be truer today than ever. But we don’t have to stand for it.

When you hear any senator agonize over how important it is to protect Medicaid, ask them how they can do that by cutting and capping the program by billions of dollars, denying 74 million people the nursing home, in-home and other health care they have today.  

When you hear them promise to protect people with pre-existing conditions, ask them how that is possible if they allow insurers to charge older people unaffordable premiums or refuse to cover essential health services.

When you hear a senator talk about lowering health care costs, ask them how that is possible when they are reducing subsidies that help people pay for coverage. 

And when they roll out the price tag for their plan or brag about deficit reduction, be sure to ask them what the package would look like without billions in tax cuts for the wealthy.

In the end, the inescapable fact is that the leadership in the House and Senate have their priorities out of whack when it comes to health care. They are willing to push through legislation that literally harms millions of Americans, including some of the most vulnerable children, elderly, and disabled, to secure a tax cut for the wealthy while pretending it will benefit those who will suffer. It’s dishonest, terrible for our nation’s families, and it ought to be stopped.