Senate Republicans unveiled their version of a bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act today—and behind that legislation is Pennsylvania’s own Sen. Pat Toomey.
The bill includes cuts to Medicaid that are more severe than the health care legislation passed by House Republicans last month. Compared to the ACA, the House bill would leave 5 million more people who rely on Medicaid uninsured next year, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
As the chairman of the Subcommittee on Health Care, Toomey helped spearhead the bill’s drafting process and the push for deep Medicaid cuts, which Democrats and some Republicans fear will force states to either eliminate coverage for many needy patients or assume a much more sizable chunk of the cost.
Toomey defended the bill in an interview with Bloomberg today, calling the Medicaid cuts “necessary to make [Medicaid] a sustainable program.” He said the bill had “gotten lots of outside input” during the draft process—but it was drafted without a single public hearing.
Here’s how the bill would work: Under current law, Medicaid is an open-ended entitlement program, meaning the government is required to match state expenditures for the costs of covered services to those deemed eligible (primarily low-income and disabled people). The Senate legislation would replace that program with a system of capped federal payments that would drastically reduce federal spending over time.
That means states would be forced to decide whether to scale back on coverage or raise a significant amount of funding, likely through taxes or budget cuts, to make up the difference.
In addition, the bill would eliminate the ACA’s mandates to buy coverage and repeal tax increases designed to pay for the ACA, effectively resulting in tax breaks for the wealthy.
Medicaid insures 20 percent of Americans. It covers nearly half of all births in the country, almost 40 percent of children (76 percent of poor children), and nearly 65 percent of nursing home residents, according to the New York Times.
Several local officials criticized the bill today, including Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf, who said the Senate plan “prioritizes tax cuts for the wealthy, modest deficit reductions and achieving a political victory over families who need lifesaving care.”
State Sen. Daylin Leach also weighed on the Medicaid cuts in with a statement:
“To deny health care to families and sick people is morally obscene. But to do that to give tax cuts to Americans earning more than $250,000 per year is almost beyond human comprehension. I doubt cancer patients who won’t be able to afford chemotherapy will be comforted to know that Donald Trump is getting a tax cut. We are all in this together – why is that so hard for the Republicans to understand?”
The health care bill will likely come to the Senate floor next week.
This article originally stated that the CBO estimated the Senate bill would account for a reduction in Medicaid spending of more than $800 billion over the course of a decade; in fact, that figure relates to the health care bill passed by the House in May. We regret the error.
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