By Miriam Raftery
Photo: Tweet sent by ex-Bush White House lawyer Richard Painter, showing all-male White Hosue meeting at which vital healthcare benefits for women were stripped from the bill. Painter says the bill made "Trumpcare even worse." But Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine) says it will "save America."
March 24, 2017 (Washington D.C.) – President Trump has demanded that the House of Representatives hold an up-or-down vote today on Republican’s American Health Care Act , stating that if it does not pass, the Affordable Healthcare Act (Obamacare) will remain in place and he will move on to other priorities such as trade reforms.
Lacking enough votes for passage, Republicans held a closed-door meeting last night on a hastily-revised version of their original plan to woo conservatives with changes such as taking away healthcare coverage for pregnant women and repealing new taxes sooner. The new version is still estimated to result in 24 million people losing healthcare, but would reduce the deficit by only $150 billion, not the $337 billion in the original bill, according to a revised Congressional Budget Office report.
Healthcare amendments added to woo the most conservative members of Congress all weaken existing protections. According to a Washington Post story those stories include:
- Eliminate the ACA requirement that healthcare plans sold to individuals and small businesses must include essential health benefits including maternity care, newborn infant care, and mental health treatment. It would give states an option to use certain federal funds for maternity and newborn care, but this would not be mandatory.
- Delay repeal of a Medicare tax on the wealthy until 2023, after which Medicare could face a funding shortage for beneficiaries.
- End Medicaid expansion to states in 2019, even sooner than the original Republican bill. This would force states to cut benefits, the number of recipients, or slash reimbursement to doctors.
States could require able-bodied adults to prove they are working or looking for work to receive Medicaid.
- Slightly increase Medicaid adjustments for inflation, though only for the elderly and disabled.
- Express a will to free up federal money to help those age 50-65 with premiums, though how is not spelled out and this is not mandatory.
- Block grants could be provided to states for Medicaid instead of per-person amounts.
- Repeal of most taxes that helped pay for the ACA would be moved up to 2017. Action on a tax on high-cost employer plans would be delayed.
Congressman Duncan Hunter, speaking on Fox News last night, staunchly defended his support of the revised bill on the same day a Justice Dept. probe of his campaign finances was announced. Hunter told Fox he supports the revised bill “because this is going to save America.” He claimed Obamacare is “failing”, voiced his view that the bill will “save people money” but admitted the changes will be “disruptive.”
The bill has been slammed by Democrats who stand united against it. Consumers Union, the American Medical Association, American Association of Retired Persons and other pro-doctor and pro-patient advocacy groups have opposed the Republican healthcare plan as harmful to many consumers. Even some Republican members of Congress have said they will vote no, some because they say it strips away protections and would leave constituents worse off than Obamacare, and others because they believe it doesn’t go far enough to eliminate all of Obamacare.
Richard Painter, former attorney for Republican President George W. Bush and current vice chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Tweeted that the changes to the bill make “Trumpcare even worse.”
He retweeted a White House photo showing all-male legislators and officials meeting to gut the healthcare bill of coverage for women’s healthcare, an image that other media outlets also picked up and which has been widely reposted on social media.