U.S. Senate’s Heartless “Health” Bill is a Recipe for Public Health Disaster
Senate Republicans would leave many children, seniors and people with disabilities without medical care
Statement by Jessica Yamauchi, Executive Director, Hawai’i Public Health Institute
Honolulu, Hawai‘i – Republicans in the U.S. Senate have released their framework for repealing the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and it is full of bad news for our state and nation. This framework bill would make even deeper cuts to Medicaid than the House Republican bill, impacting more than 74 million of our most vulnerable citizens, including 358,674* low-income adults, children, pregnant women, and people with disabilities in Hawai’i.
Ever political, Senate Republicans purposely delay many of the cuts until after the next two to three elections. This “bleeding it dry” strategy is a bet that if the American people don’t feel any immediate pain, they’ll forget by the time election season comes around.
The reality, however, is that the nation will feel immediate pain. The abolition of the Public Health and Prevention Fund will likely eliminate the Center for Disease Control’s highly impactful Tips from Former Smokers media campaign, which has thus far successfully helped more than 500,000 smokers quit and saved at least 50,000 lives. It’s no accident that smoking rates have reached historic lows, and the loss of this media campaign will remove one of the strongest responses we have to the billions that tobacco companies spend on marketing their deadly products each year.
Prevention and Public Health Fund dollars also fund programs in our state that fight obesity, increase access to preventive care services, and help our state and local government respond to public health threats and outbreaks. Loss of the Prevention Fund would completely eliminate our nation’s focus on preventing disease, further exacerbating health care costs in America.
Today’s nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projection details how very damaging this legislation would be. If passed, the Republican Senate “health” bill would lead to 22 million more Americans becoming uninsured over the next decade. A whopping 15 million will lose their insurance next year, with the remaining 7 million becoming uninsured over the following nine years as states downsize their programs due to the new Medicaid cap.
No one should be fooled. This is pure political trickery to starve the Medicaid program to death at the expense of children, seniors and people with disabilities. Adding insult to injury, the plan includes hundreds of millions in tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
While the Republican plan does not allow insurers to discriminate against people with preexisting conditions, it does allow states to change or eliminate the “essential health benefits” that insurers are required to provide under Obamacare. These benefits include maternity and newborn care, prescription drug costs, habilitative care, mental health and substance use services. Clearly, the Senate Republicans are leaving the back door open for insurance companies to lobby their state legislatures to weaken or remove these essential health services to bring costs down and profits up.
We’re thrilled that Senators Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz stand with all Senate Democrats in strongly opposing this devastating proposal, and we’re hopeful that there will be at least a few defections from Senate Republicans to end this politically motivated attack on our nation’s health.
* Hawai’i Medicaid Enrollment: http://www.med-quest.us/PDFs/queststatistics/EnrollmentReports2017.pdf