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This Week in the War on Health Care — January 15-19, 2018

By January 18, 2018March 15th, 2018No Comments

The week, as much of the focus in Washington shifted to DACA and negotiations in Congress over a continuing resolution, the Trump Administration continued its unprecedented assault on the American health care system.

While your attention was focused elsewhere, here’s a summary of what happened this week in sabotage:

ATTACKS ON MEDICAID

As the dust settled around the Trump HHS’s approval of Kentucky’s worst-in-the-nation Medicaid waiver, experts dug into the fundamental ways it signals an end to Medicaid’s legacy:

… and why we already know it won’t work, unless Governor Matt Bevin’s primary goal is to take away Kentuckians’ coverage (spoiler alert: it is):

As Margot Sanger-Katz notes: “Kentucky’s new Medicaid waiver will ask low-income people to jump over hurdles to keep their coverage. Evidence suggests that many will fail … Kentucky officials argue that the changes will give beneficiaries more dignity and promote personal responsibility. But they also estimate that around 100,000 fewer people will be enrolled in the program by the end of five years.”

Meanwhile, Republicans opened a new front in their war on Medicaid. Yesterday, Senator Ron Johnson held a sham hearing to try to smear Medicaid by blaming it for the opioid crisis — when in fact Medicaid is one of our most important tools to curb the epidemic. Fortunately, few were fooled:

  • Newsweek: “The Republican argument is flawed because the Medicaid expansion began in 2014, and opioid addiction was declared an epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2011.”
  • Washington Post: “While conservatives have noted that overdose deaths are much higher among people inside the program than those outside it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they’ve not been able to prove Medicaid actually leads to opioid abuse.”
  • Los Angeles Times: “The Republican campaign against Medicaid could only make the opioid crisis worse. That’s because Medicaid pays for a huge proportion of opioid treatments, covering fully one-third of those with addiction problems … Johnson and his fellow Republicans in Congress seem determined to impose cuts on the program, even though the benefits it renders are crystal-clear. Wednesday’s hearing did achieve one benefit, for all that: It showed how threadbare their arguments are.”

ATTACKS ON EMPLOYER COVERAGE

On Monday, New York Times reported that the GOP’s next health care sabotage scheme will remove the requirement that employers of over 50 workers offer health coverage for their employees. Such a move could yank care away from millions more Americans, while increasing government spending:

“The Affordable Care Act was built on a framework of shared responsibility … If you get rid of the employer mandate, you will see people lose coverage from their employers.”

ATTACKS ON CRITICAL HEALTH PROGRAMS

Congressional Republicans released a Continuing Resolution proposal that continues their heartless strategy of using children’s health insurance as a bargaining chip. Their bill also attempts to delay Affordable Care Act taxation provisions that benefit big corporations, while ignoring critical expired programs that support essential providers. These include community health centers and hospitals that serve lower-income communities. Some of these critical provider systems are facing threats of closure due to the ongoing uncertainty caused by the Republican Congress..

As Politico reported, GOP Congressional leaders considered including the badly-needed funding – then decided not to:

Knowing the vote is close, Ryan, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and other GOP leaders debated on Wednesday morning whether to add more provisions to the package, such as funding for community health centers. In the end, they decided to move ahead with the package as is.

As this week’s CR brinksmanship showed, Republicans continue to prioritize partisan politics over their constituents’ health care.

SABOTAGE TAKES A TOLL

On Tuesday, Gallup found that America’s uninsured rate jumped during Trump’s first year in office for the first time in a decade, causing 3.2 million Americans to lose their care.

If this week’s news is any indication, that number could climb as the Republican war on health care continues into 2018.