Bernard: Graham-Cassidy stew is recipe for health care disaster

Bernard: Graham-Cassidy stew is recipe for health care disaster

September 24th, 2017 by Jack Bernard in Opinion Times

"This is like a ping pong game on health care and the losers are the American people."

— Republican Gov. John Kasich of Ohio

Although readers of this column likely are from different parties, we can all agree on one thing. Politicians of both parties have misled the public, some more than others.

The latest GOP repeal plan lies to the public again. The provider community, the people who actually care for patients, know this fact all too well. Virtually all of them oppose the Graham-Cassidy bill. This legislation is being shoved down the throat of GOP senators who, according to recent interviews with each of them, have no idea as to what is in the legislation or its impact on their constituents.

In large part, this dismal situation is due to the fact that the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office is not being given enough time to score its impact. Not surprisingly, given Washington, this situation is not by chance.

The previous GOP House and Senate repeal efforts would have resulted in massive tax breaks for the wealthy and tens of millions of Americans losing coverage. This bill is worse. So, Senate leadership has decided to move quickly without giving opponents a chance to educate the public on this repeal bill's immense flaws, which include destabilization of the insurance market, creation of drastic tax increases or benefit cuts in states that expanded Medicaid under Obamacare, restrictions on pre-existing condition coverage, dismantling of family planning, permitting of lifetime payment caps, and causing tens of millions to lose coverage.

The Graham-Cassidy Bill is clearly a disingenuous mess which has a multitude of negative effects for taxpayers, providers and patients. Other than the GOP Congress and president, which want a win regardless of the cost to the nation, virtually no one likes the bill.

The AMA, the AHA, the AHIP, AARP, the AHCA, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and virtually every other health care group representing both insurers and providers are strenuously opposed to the bill. So are senior groups like the AARP (full disclosure: I am an active AARP member).

Per the AARP: "New AARP Public Policy Institute projections find that the per enrollee cap proposal in Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson will cut between $1.2 trillion and $3.2 trillion from total (federal and state) Medicaid spending over the 20-year period between 2017 and 2036."

AARP projects cuts in non-expansion Medicaid groups to be between 14.9 percent and 32.5 percent by 2036. For adults, the decrease in benefits for full benefit enrollees would be between 31.7 percent and 46.3 percent.

According to recent survey research, the public strongly supports Medicaid. So, what is a tremendous cut and basic restructuring doing in an Obamacare repeal bill?

Do GOP senators know or care? Do they just want a win regardless of the consequences?

The only way to stop this steamroller is via direct action through calls to senators and the governor's office.

Per John McCain's earlier criticism of the last Senate repeal process, hearings must be held to explore the consequences to the public of enacting legislation which will dramatically affect one-sixth of our national economy.

Is the tax benefit to the wealthy and corporations still at $600 billion as in earlier bills? Are tens of millions still thrown off insurance? What is the plan to reach full coverage for all, a key Trump campaign pledge? People who just sit back and wait until it is too late should not complain when their benefits (or those of their needy friends or relatives) are cut and billionaires receive unjustifiable tax cuts.

Jack Bernard is the former director of health planning for the state of Georgia and a retired senior vice president with a national health care firm. He was also the chairman of the Jasper County Commission and Republican Party.

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