The Senate bill is as mean-spirited as the House bill. Illinois would get hammered even harder. And Gov. Bruce Rauner is still AWOL.
Other than that, what’s not to like?
The rich, at least, would get richer.
It is no surprise that the proposed Senate Republican bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, finally dragged into the light Thursday, is horribly wrong-headed. Any “reform” of Obamacare that is driven by a desire, above all, to cut taxes by hundreds of millions of dollars for rich people is sure to leave many other Americans worse off. The Senate GOP plan would leave tens of millions more Americans without insurance, result in higher premiums for older Americans, and allow insurance companies to water down benefits to joke status.
We had held out hope the Senate GOP bill might be notably more compassionate than the House GOP monstrosity. No such luck.
It’s the same old ravaging of Medicaid. The Senate bill would phase out the extra money the federal government gives states to expand Medicaid to poor people. This would be devastating to Illinois, where 650,000 poor people are covered by Medicaid thanks largely to $3 billion a year from the feds. Medicaid expansion, created by the Affordable Care Act, has dramatically reduced costs for Cook County public hospitals and clinics because so many more patients now are covered.
It’s the same old hit on the elderly. The Senate bill also would cap future federal spending per person for traditional Medicaid, which serves low-income kids, pregnant women, the elderly and people with disabilities. The rate of growth in spending would be capped beginning in 2025, just when the average baby boomer turns 80. This is scary news, boomers, given that Medicaid pays for half of all nursing home care in the United States. Do not plan on getting old.
It’s the same old hit on older working men and women. As with the House plan, passed along party lines in May, the Senate plan would allow insurers to charge older customers five times more than younger ones for the same health plan. Under Obamacare, the ratio is three-to-one.
It’s the same old attack on the quality of health care. The Senate plan would allow states to waive federal rules that set a floor on what benefits insurers must cover, such as maternity care, mental health care and cancer treatments. Critics warn that this could be a back door way for insurance companies to deny coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions.
It is the same old dumping of human beings. The House bill, as scored by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, would throw some 23 million people off the insurance roles. The Senate bill, yet to be scored, likely would do the same.
And it is the same old Bruce Rauner. When we asked the governor’s office Thursday for his reaction to the Senate bill, we were told he has to “take a look at it.” But the Senate bill holds no secrets; it’s the House bill in different wrapping paper.
The governor has been disappointing in his reluctance to take a firm stand. After the House bill was passed, he said he feared it would leave Illinois “in the lurch” but he declined to get specific. So here’s a specific: The Senate GOP’s scheme to shrink Medicaid could blow a $40 billion hole in Illinois’ budget over ten years.
It is hard to imagine that a more hands-on governor of the past, such as Jim Thompson or Jim Edgar, would not be weighing in more forcefully, fighting for their state. Other governors are doing just that.
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