(CBM) – Three of the Golden State’s top Democrats denounced a Republican Senate-promoted health care bill making the rounds in the nation’s capital during a conference call with media members on the morning of June 27.
Governor Jerry Brown and U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris spoke out against the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017, which supporting politicians have geared towards using to overhaul the nation’s health care system and rollback the Affordable Care Act (ACA), former President Barack Obama’s signature legislation.
Feinstein called the Republican legislation the most indefensible bill she had seen in her 24 years in the Senate. The senator recited the number of Americans that would lose health insurance if the act became law according to a June 26 report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
“Twenty-two million Americans would lose their health coverage by 2026,” Feinstein said. “That’s between three and four million in California with 1.6 million losing insurance next year. California would see the nation’s biggest increase in uninsured people next year.”
Harris said the health plan gives states a loophole where insurance companies aren’t required to cover essential benefits.
“It would not be mandatory to cover treatment for pre-existing conditions,” she said. “For example, maternity care for pregnant women, mental health treatment for depression, and outpatient care for folks addicted to drugs including opioid.”
During the 27-minute call, the California lawmakers described the 25-page legislation authored by Republicans in closed-door meetings in Washington D.C. earlier this month as “disastrous” and a “junk plan.”
Feinstein said there were no public hearings on the measure and didn’t know a single word in it until it was unveiled on June 23.
“On lesser bills we hold hearings,” she said, “but this bill that impacts everybody and one sixth of our economy is done in secret by 12 white men.”
Harris said the act’s architects have nothing to be proud of.
“It’s no wonder they did it in secret,” she said. “It takes health insurance from millions of people. The combined population of 16 states.”
The senators and Brown said if the bill is legalized in its current form California’s health system – Covered California, the state’s health exchange, and Medi-Cal, California’s safety net health program – would face dire problems including:
Having to replace around $24 billion in federal monies by 2026 for Medi-Cal.
Premiums increased by $619.
One in three or 14 million Californians losing Medi-Cal coverage, including one in two children and special needs people and three in five seniors.
Hospitals facing $1.6 billion in uncompensated care in 2018. Planned Parenthood barred from receiving federal money.
Feinstein said California would pay more money for less.
“All these cuts are used to make the top one percent richer by giving them billions in tax breaks,” she said. “This is a terrible bill, and we must defeat it.”
Brown said $400 billion of the measure’s $700 billion budget reduction would go to tax relief. The governor said if Republicans’ goal were to reduce the economy’s deficient, they wouldn’t give a tax break.
“This is such a political bill,” Brown said. “It is very divisive. As I look across the political landscape of California and across the country we’re more and more polarized. This is a time when the country should be united. This bill would cut right into the heart of what is a divided nation.”
The trio’s tongue-lashing of the Republican legislation fell a day after the CBO announced that the bill would cause 15 million more people to be without insurance compared to the current health law; out-of-pocket expenses and premiums to skyrocket for some low-income Americans and people approaching retirement and reduce Medicaid spending by $772 billion over the next decade, which is something the administration of President Donald Trump said the proposed health market wouldn’t do. The budget office said average premiums would go down mostly because the insurance citizens would pay for would be less valuable. Most Americans buying insurance under the bill would pay more for their care.
The CBO’s 49-page report left Republicans with so few promising points that the next day, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky announced a delayed vote on the legislation, which would repeal the ACA, also known as Obamacare.
If a vote on the measure had taken place on Friday, as originally planned, McConnell and other Better Care Reconciliation Act supporters would not have accumulated the necessary votes to move the legislation forward. That pushed Senate consideration of the bill until after a planned recess for Independence Day.
A poll by USA Today and Suffolk University released on June 28 found that only 12 percent of Americans support the controversial health plan. Fifty-three percent say Congress should leave the ACA intact or work to fix its problems while leaving its framework alone.
Feinstein said the fight against “their terrible health care bill” is not over.
“Senator McConnell said he’ll continue to try to strike a deal, which is why Democrats will continue to fight against this legislation,” she said. “No amount of tinkering will change the fact that this bill would devastate health care in America, and we can’t let that happen.”
Brown said millions of people will suffer if the legislation becomes law.
“The human impact is we would be a more divided California and more divided America,” he said. It’s really bad; its toxic. I just hope the word reaches Republicans.”
Feinstein encouraged Californians to call-on U.S. representatives to vote against dismantling President Barack Obama’s signature legislation.
“I’ve always believed there are a couple of things that maybe can be fixed with Obamacare, but the basic bill is a good bill,” she said. “It has worked and we have over 10 million more Americans with Obamacare today. Well over, probably 20 million by now.”
By McKenzie Jackson & Madlen Grgodjaian
California Black Media
CBM exists to facilitate communication between the black community, media, grassroots organizations, and policy makers by providing fact-based reporting to a network of over 21 Black media outlets on leading public policy issues