By Lise Millay Stevens
Each time the public breathes a sigh of relief over the apparent death of repeated ‘repeal and replace’ bills to obliterate Obamacare, the Republicans find some new devilry to resurrect the unpopular GOP health plan. Like a collective Dr. Frankenstein, the Republicans have repeatedly created monstrous health care bills that rise up, stumble toward unsuspecting low-income and sick people, terrorize them, and threaten to rampage across the country.
The Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson bill, named for the senators who sponsored it, may be the biggest and scariest of them all. A joint statement from prominent health care organizations such as the American Medical Associations, the American Hospital Association and insurance giant Blue Cross Blue Shield stated, “We agree that the bill will cause patients and consumers to lose important protections, as well as undermine safeguards for those with pre-existing conditions,” the statement read. “Without these guaranteed protections, people with significant medical conditions can be charged much higher premiums and some may not be able to buy coverage at all.”
Frantic Push to Get Bill Passed
The legislation is another rush job as the GOP once again plays beat the clock to ‘reform’ health care. This week, the bill needs a mere 50 votes to pass; after Friday, a procedural change will require 60 votes for passage. The votes will have to come from Senate Republicans, as the Democrats unilaterally oppose it, as was true of every health care bill proposed this year.
The time constraints forced the Congressional Budget Office to release only a preliminary analysis of the bill, but the assessment was damning. “The number of people with comprehensive health insurance that covers high-cost medical events would be reduced by millions,” the CBO document states. “The decrease in the number of insured people would be particularly large starting in 2020, when the legislation would make major changes to federal funding of Medicaid and the nongroup market.”
The good news? The CBO also noted that Graham-Cassidy would reduce the budget deficit by $133 billion over 10 years, mostly due to funds that would be shifted away from states that accepted Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. Sounds great until one realizes that the plan is to balance the U.S. checkbook by taking health care away from the lowest-income and disabled people in the country.
Repeal A Bad Idea
President Obama’s American Health Care Act afforded care to more than 20 million American who were previously not covered. The Medicaid expansion that several states accepted came in the nick of time for many people—those who became disabled, whose income dropped after the housing crash in 2009 or who simply became unable to find work and obtain employer-sponsored health care.
In addition, the opioid epidemic was spiking, reaching into every nook and cranny of the nation, especially in rural areas where incomes tend to be lower. Every year since 2001, the epidemic has grown worse thanks to cheap and accessible synthetic opioids, drugs that are as much as 50 time more powerful than conventional street drugs. The majority of people with substance use issues have an accompanying mental health disorder. Both issues need to be treated, concurrently, to assure the possibility of a productive and healthy life. Mental and addiction problems are disabilities, brain diseases. Currently, 60 percent of people who receive specialized care for substance use and mental health disorders do so through Medicaid. Why are Republicans so eager to pull the rug out from under these individuals, and others who may face the same challenges in the future? Not to mention the millions of individuals with other disabilities, and those who face low-wage or no-wage employment status.
Conscientious Objectors Save the Day
But thankfully, the public doesn’t have to answer those questions yet. Today revealed that there are Republicans who have a heart. Senators John McCain (Ariz.), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Susan Collins (Maine) vowed to vote against the bill. Their ‘no’ votes are enough to sink it. McCain already sank the last flawed GOP bill, showing up late for the vote fresh off of brain surgery and giving it a thumbs-down.
As of this afternoon, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell conceded defeat; the bill will not be up for a vote this week. This will force Republican to work with Democrats on future health care legislation. This time, Frankenstein appears to be gone for good. Or at least for the time being.
Looking forward, the public will be watching. We have already seen the brave souls in wheelchairs lining the hallways of congressional buildings, the resolute parents of disabled kids pressing into senators’ offices, the town hall attendees heckling legislators home on break—all of whom harassed our elected leaders into decency, reminded our leaders of who’s really in charge, and what America stands for. They won’t forget, and they won’t let go. The next health care proposal better be good—for everyone.
About Sovereign Health
Sovereign Health’s mission is to provide a broad spectrum of high-quality behavioral health treatment services for adults and adolescents, including support services for family members. One factor that differentiates Sovereign from other treatment providers has been the company’s ability to offer separate mental health and addiction or dual diagnosis treatment programs at its facilities. Sovereign’s facilities are licensed and have been awarded Gold Seal accreditation by The Joint Commission, the highest level of accreditation available in the behavioral health field. For more information, visit www.sovhealth.com.