Sunday, July 23, 2017

GOP Healthcare Woes Are Getting Worse, Not Better-- Parliamentarian Questions Trumpcare Framework


House Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) is having a fit again. If I was in the FBI and if someone blows up the Senate with a bomb, I'd look at Meadows' alibi very, very closely. He's freaking out over the Senate parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, ruling that there are as many as a dozen parts of TrumpCare that violate the Byrd Rule and that they can't be passed with a 51 majority and would need a full 60 votes if the Democrats object-- which they do. Meadows said, for example, taking the provisions defending Planned Parenthood out of TrumpCare, would make it "almost impossible" to pass the bill back through the House, To him and other far right extremists the Hyde restrictions on tax credits are a must. Pity.

The ruling specifies that "abortion restrictions on the premium tax credit and the small business tax credit, and the language defunding Planned Parenthood, violate the Byrd Rule. Further, the 'Buffalo Bailout' which was used to secure votes in the House has also been found to violate the Byrd Rule-- threatening other state-specific buy-offs." Those are all "sweeteners" to make the bill palatable for the extreme right fringe of the Republican Party.

The NY Times reported that "Democrats made clear they would seize on the findings." Bernie, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee: "The parliamentarian’s decision today proves once again that the process Republicans have undertaken to repeal the Affordable Care Act and throw 22 million Americans off of health insurance is a disaster." One of the no-no provisions "would penalize people who go without health insurance by requiring them to wait six months before their coverage could begin. Insurers would generally be required to impose the waiting period on people who lacked coverage for more than about two months in the prior year... The waiting period provision is fundamental to the working of the bill. Because the legislation would end the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that most Americans have health insurance, the waiting period was designed to ensure that people could not simply wait to get sick before they purchased a policy."

Senate Republican leaders plan to begin debate next week on repealing the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement, which has provided health insurance to roughly 20 million Americans.

At the moment, Republican leaders lack the votes to ensure passage of their bill to repeal and replace the law, and they are still modifying it in hopes of gaining support from uncommitted Republican senators. All Democrats are expected to oppose the repeal bill.

Under the procedure that Republicans are using to speed passage of the health care bill, senators can object to a provision if it does not change federal spending or revenue or if the budgetary effects are “merely incidental” to some policy objective. The parliamentarian serves as a sort of referee, determining whether specific provisions of the bill comply with Senate rules.

Don Stewart, a spokesman for the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, emphasized that “this is guidance, not a ruling.” The parliamentarian “provided guidance,” and that guidance will help inform subsequent drafts of the legislation, he said, suggesting that the bill could be revised to answer her questions.

The Senate’s presiding officer usually follows advice from the parliamentarian. But the full Senate can vote to overturn those decisions.

The parliamentarian also objected to a narrowly written provision that would shift Medicaid costs from New York’s counties to its state government. This provision, tagged by opponents as the “Buffalo Bailout,” was included in a repeal bill passed by the House in May to secure the votes of Republican House members from upstate New York.

The Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, suggested that other provisions written specifically for different states could also be at risk.

“This will greatly tie the majority leader’s hands as he tries to win over reluctant Republicans with state-specific provisions,” Mr. Schumer said. “We will challenge every one of them.”

Even before the parliamentarian’s blow, Trump administration officials and Republican leaders were struggling to win over moderate Republicans with a new infusion of money to help people who would lose Medicaid under the Senate health care bill.

Senators are set to return to the Capitol on Monday, and Republican leaders are eager to begin debate in the Senate on health care, perhaps as early as Tuesday. It is unclear they have the votes needed to start the debate, let alone to ensure passage of a bill to repeal and replace the health care law.

In their latest bid for agreement on a plan to undo the health care law, Senate Republicans are weighing a proposal to add funds, perhaps $200 billion, to the bill to help low-income people transition from Medicaid to private insurance. But Republican leaders must balance the interests of senators from states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act with the goals of fiscal conservatives, who see the repeal bill as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rein in the growth of one of the nation’s largest entitlement programs.

“You can only go so far, and then you lose votes on one side where we want to make reforms within Medicaid,” Senator Michael Rounds, Republican of South Dakota, said after a lengthy meeting this week with administration officials and other Republican senators. “And if you don’t go far enough, then you’ve got folks that are concerned that we’re making the changes too quick. So it’s that balancing act of trying to keep everybody on board and feeling comfortable.”

The Congressional Budget Office says the Senate repeal bill would cut projected federal Medicaid spending by more than $750 billion in the coming decade, leaving 15 million fewer people on Medicaid in 2026, compared with the enrollment expected under current law.

Those cuts have caused deep concern to Republican senators from states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, including Rob Portman of Ohio, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

“I would like to do more to help people at the low end of the income scale afford private health insurance,” Mr. Portman said, noting that more than 700,000 people in his state had gained coverage through the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Ms. Capito, in a video message on Friday, said that many of her constituents had been hurt by the Affordable Care Act, but that “many West Virginians have benefited from our state’s decision to expand Medicaid” under the health law.

“I have said all along that we need to both repeal and replace Obamacare, and I’m not giving up on that goal,” she said. But, she added, “We aren’t there yet.”

Opponents of repeal, including consumer advocates and health care providers in every state, are keeping up the pressure on Republican senators.

AARP called on senators to vote against the procedural motion to begin debate, while the American Medical Association panned the repeal measure and an alternate Senate bill that would repeal the health law without providing a replacement.

“Recent revisions do not correct core elements that will lead to millions of Americans losing health insurance coverage with a resulting decline in both health status and outcomes,” Dr. James L. Madara, the association’s chief executive, wrote to Senate leaders on Friday. The Senate legislation, he said, would undermine state Medicaid programs and weaken the individual insurance market.

Save My Care, a group that is fighting the repeal effort, is targeting Ms. Capito, Ms. Murkowski and Senator Dean Heller, Republican of Nevada, with new television commercials urging them to vote against repealing the health law.

“Senator Capito promised to protect our health care,” one of the ads says. “Now Washington insiders are pressuring her to back down.”

On the flip side, Republican senators risk angering conservative supporters-- as well as President Trump-- if they stand in the way of the repeal effort, perhaps by opposing the procedural motion to begin debate that is planned for next week.

Painter Nancy Ohanian is... prescient

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At 6:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The fact that the Rs need it to be a reconciliation process, to allow the senate to pass it with 51 instead of requiring 60 for cloture, means it is a budget (taxes, revenue, spending) bill and NOT anything to do with health care, per se.

Could it be any clearer that they are taking a Trillion from Medicaid and giving it to billionaires?

Can someone please make a cutesie cartoon showing how many corpses it will take to give the kochs their $50 billion in tax cuts or whatever it is? We all love cutesie cartoons.

At 2:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Watch for this office to be eliminated for "cost reasons".


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