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Senate Republicans release healthcare bill that will affect coverage for millions

The Guardian – Jessica Glenza/New York & Lauren Gambino/Washington – Thurs 22 June 2017

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Photo: Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell walks to his office after arriving on Capitol Hill in Washington DC Thursday. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA.

Draft bill to replace Obamacare would cut Medicaid and middle-class tax credits, and strip funding from Planned Parenthood.

After weeks of secret negotiations, the US Senate has released an anticipated draft of a bill that could upend the healthcare system for millions of Americans.

The Senate’s 142-page proposal unveiled Thursday would eliminate or reduce key benefits provided by the Affordable Care Act, lower taxes for the wealthy, strip funding from the women’s reproductive health provider Planned Parenthood and dramatically cut and restructure Medicaid, America’s public health insurance program for low-income and disabled Americans.

The legislation mirrors the House bill that narrowly passed last month, with modest changes intended to win support from moderate Senators. Meanwhile, Republican leaders emphasize the legislation is subject to change as they negotiate details in an effort to win 50 votes, the minimum required to pass.

Donald Trump said he thought the final legislation would be “very good” with “a little negotiation”. He added: “Obamacare is dead and we’re putting a plan out today that is going to be negotiated. We’d love to have some Democrats’ support but they’re obstructionists.”

On Wednesday night he called on Republicans to improve the plan by giving it more “heart”.

Senate Republicans heard about the substance of the healthcare reform effort for the first time Thursday morning, just days before leadership intends to hold a vote.

Experts believe the bill could leave millions of Americans without health insurance, and could have a stark impact on vulnerable populations such as recovering drug addicts, aging middle-class baby boomers and women and children.

That impacts are likely to prompt questions about how senators can sell voters on a bill that left the House with a 17% public approval rating, and the expectation that 23 million Americans will lose health insurance.

Senators want to give the middle-class tax credits to buy insurance, but those subsidies would still be worth less than those currently provided by the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. People would also need to earn less money to quality for them.

Additionally, the Senate’s bill would still allow states to decide which benefits insurance must cover. This could herald a return to pre-Obamacare days, when Americans who bought their own insurance faced expensive riders for coverage such as mental health care, and maternity care of addiction treatment. Any changes to which benefits insurance must cover is expected to have an outsized impact on people with pre-existing conditions.

The bill would also slash Medicaid, a program that pays for half of all births in the United States and provides health insurance to one in five Americans. If passed, changes in the Senate bill would be some of the most significant health reforms for low-income Americans in more than 50 years.

The bill would change Medicaid in two ways. First, it would phase out payments to states that expanded Medicaid under Obamacare between 2020 and 2023, a major cut to the program.

Then, the bill would change Medicaid from a program that matches states’ contributions, no matter the spending, to one with a capped budget called “per capita” spending.

The House bill would have cut more than $800bn from the program. Those levels of cuts were expected to result in 14 million people being pushed from the program. As states look for ways to save money, they could be pushed to cap levels of spending on individual recipients, impacting costly beneficiaries like the elderly and disabled.

Some especially vulnerable populations could also see major changes to their healthcare. An estimated 220,000 recovering drug addicts depend on Medicaid for drug treatment, an analysis by the left-leaning Center for Budget and Policy Priorities found. That could worsen America’s ongoing opioid overdose crisis, which killed more than 50,000 Americans in 2016.

The bill would also prohibit Planned Parenthood from participating in Medicaid for one year, forcing hundreds of thousands of women to find a new source of reproductive health care.

Each year, about 1.6 million patients, mostly women, receive sexually transmitted infection tests, contraception and cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood through federal programs like Medicaid. Planned Parenthood, in return, receives roughly half a billion dollars annually in federal Medicaid reimbursements.

Read entire article here

PS Seems to me that the Republicans are at it, again, slashing benefits to the most needy, especially all women! Time for a change.

Posted by Teri Perticone

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