If the Senate Republicans’ “repeal and replace” bill is signed by President Trump, Medicaid as we have known it may be but a chapter in an 8th grade U.S. History textbook. And, yes, at least one section will be about how the GOP health bill caused the poor, disabled, and elderly to suffer and die without coverage.
‘Better Care Reconciliation Act’: The Basics
Republicans are using a legislative process called reconciliation to move their healthcare bill through the Senate more quickly. This process is traditionally used for budgetary or financially-related matters. It results in the Senate GOP health bill being oddly named the ‘Better Care Reconciliation Act’.
Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) assembled a 13-man secret working group, comprised of male Senators from an assortment of states and tenure. He had a tough task, balancing the desires of his more conservative members and moderates. The divide was apparent as Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) spoke to media a short time after the bill was posted online.
Paul spoke on behalf of himself, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI). He said the far-right conservatives read parts of the bill and attended a briefing session with leadership earlier in the day. The four believe this Senate GOP health bill is not a true repeal of Obamacare. As a result, they are the first “no” votes.
On the other side, moderate Republicans like Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) demand consideration for Medicaid and women’s health care services provided by Planned Parenthood.
Live and Die in the Dark
One GOP Senate staffer said that by keeping their 52-member body and the public in the dark, it gave Democrats a chance to “define this bill in any imaginable way”. In so doing, the liberal minority party set the terms of its discussion before McConnell authorized its release Thursday.
As word trickled out about controversial provisions of the healthcare bill, including drastic cuts to Medicaid, some protesters waited in the security line to hopefully meet with Leader McConnell or his staff. Others were already assembled throughout Capitol Hill, holding signs and chanting, “Save Medicaid!”
Cable news banners displayed messages like:
“Reversing Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid Expansion in 32 States”
“Low-wage Workers (without group plans) Including Home Healthcare, Clerks, Cashiers, Cooks & Waiters Could Lose Healthcare”
Medicaid Cuts Drastically Impact the Disabled
The protesters in security earlier made their way to McConnell’s office, overflowing into parts of the hallway. Grassroots disability rights advocates with ADAPT organized the demonstration, many in wheelchairs or using other mobility assistance. Their qualm is with proposed funding reductions to Medicaid, a program that helps the disabled receive healthcare and other disability resources that are otherwise outside their ability to pay.
Although the assembled group chanted “No Medicaid Cuts!” peacefully, still, Capitol Police quickly arrived to remove them from the building. Some disabled protesters were reportedly dragged from their wheelchairs and carried out on stretchers. When they ran out of stretchers, teams of officers picked up protesters and marched away.
In addition, at least one protester was taken from a wheelchair and dragged by their arms down the hallway.
In total, 43 protesters were arrested.
It is worth noting that a wheelchair is more than a way to get around. It becomes an extension of the person in it. Yanking someone from their wheelchair is akin to pulling off an injured vet’s prosthetic arms, because they’re unnecessary and taking up too much space.
3 Need to Know Facts About Medicaid Under the GOP Health Bill
- The Medicaid expansion ends after the year 2020. However, as each year gets closer to that date, states receive jarring cuts in federal funds to cover Medicaid patients’ care. Existing people on the Medicaid expansion are weaned off over a period of 3 years, before they’re fully removed by 2024.
- It is important to remember that Medicaid doesn’t only provide healthcare coverage for low-income people. Medicaid covers most nursing home stays, drug and addiction recovery like that for opioid problems, as well as expensive chronic health conditions and mental health treatment.
- States will be allowed to demand that Medicaid recipients be employed, through new work requirements.
- New spending under Medicaid will be halted with strict funding caps or block grants. By 2025, funding for each person remaining on Medicaid really dries up, resulting in the program looking nothing like it has in recent years.
In the House, the GOP’s American Health Care Act (AHCA) was passed before the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) could announce its analysis that 23 million Americans would lose health insurance under that bill. Thanks to Senate rules prohibiting a vote without scoring from the CBO, that information will be available when Senators vote.
Republican leadership in the Senate expects that score by Monday, and Leader McConnell has promised a vote on the bill by July 4th.