Even with Senate lipstick, GOP health care still a pig

Can’t we just call it what it really is — tax cut legislation rather than a health care proposal?

Let’s be honest. The “Better Care Reconciliation Act” written in secret and unveiled last week is less about improving health care for all of us than it is about cutting taxes to the tune of about $700 billion over the next decade for a few.

If it was really about our health, wouldn’t that $700 billion be better spent on actually improving care and reducing costs instead of throwing more than 20,000 of us off of insurance and placing our rural hospitals in jeopardy?

It’s a bill, as I write this, barely on life support with Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell facing self-inflicted disaster if only three GOP senators defect. That’s a distinct possibility with complaints from at least eight conservative and moderate Republicans in the Senate, some complaining the bill isn’t mean enough and others worried about cuts to Medicaid, Planned Parenthood and addiction treatment efforts.

Notably absent in expressing any opinion so far is our own Cory Gardner, one of those senators supposedly tasked with writing the bill but who’ve admitted they didn’t see it until it was released by their leader. If that’s true, it might absolve Gardner of any blame for its provisions. But we’ll find out this week if he’s more concerned about health care, particularly in rural Colorado, than tax cuts.

If the Senate bill was about health care, why would the American Medical Association, the March of Dimes, the American Hospital Association, the American Cancer Society and other medical organizations oppose it? Why would governors, both Democrat and Republican be concerned?

Probably because it’ll shift costs to states that can’t afford it. Like Colorado, where the choice would be to pick up the tab and further complicate state budget setting or see a half million kids lose health care. Where nearly one quarter of us get health care because of Medicaid, one-third thanks to Medicaid expansion, and hospitals and doctors in places like Delta rely on those payments to balance their budgets.

As the Denver Post reported yesterday in a story that featured impacts to a Nucla geologist and his family, “People in areas where health insurance costs a lot to buy would have to shoulder more costs themselves. And, in Colorado, those areas are often rural.”

The Post also examined a report from the Colorado Fiscal Institute that 75 percent of Colorado households that would receive tax cuts under the House version of GOP healthcare are in the Denver metro area and that only six counties in Colorado (Boulder, Broomfield, Douglas, El Paso Pitkin and Eagle) would see more money coming in from tax cuts than lost to cuts in Medicaid spending and premium subsidies.

“Urban counties will come out as huge winners when you take into account the hefty tax cuts for upper income earners,” according to the CFI report.

Here are other key findings from the report, again focused on the House version of GOP health care.

■ Job loss — more than 16,000 jobs lost by 2020 with rural counties losing double the number of jobs of their rural counterparts. Delta County would lose another 285 jobs according to the CFI analysis.

■ Colorado would need to come up with another $165 million per year just to cover the elderly, the disabled and poor children.

■ The state would either have to slash Medicaid spending or cut other services, or both, pitting health care against education and transportation needs.

Despite those impacts, all GOP members of Colorado’s House delegation, including our own Scott Tipton, voted in favor of the House legislation that’ll have to be reconciled with the Senate bill if it passes.

McConnell says “Obamacare is a direct attack on the middle class, and Americans deserve better than its failing status quo.” But it’s hard to see how increased deductibles, higher premiums, decreased coverages and forcing 24 million Americans back into emergency room care rather than providing preventative and earlier attention to their ills helps make things “better.”

Unless you’re wedded to a seven-year GOP mantra that the Affordable Care Act must be “repealed and replaced” and that the health of all of us can be improved by cutting taxes for a few.

We’ll see, possibly as early as Thursday, where Cory Gardner’s loyalties are.

Jim Spehar is lucky enough to be aged into Medicare. Comments welcome at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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