Haste makes waste

It’s too bad there’s not a straw poll among state lawmakers gauging their support for the controversial U.S. Senate health-care reform bill currently making waves in Washington, D.C. since they’re the one who would be left picking up the pieces if it passes.

Both parties had to come together this past session to save dozens of small hospitals in rural Colorado from closing. But if the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 passes in anything close to its present form, our lawmakers are going to have to roll up their sleeves, re-solve that problem and address many others. The implications of the Senate vote go far beyond addressing health-care costs and accessibility to insurance markets.

The Colorado Fiscal Institute released a report last week analyzing the impact of the House verson of the bill on the state. Because of the similarities between the two bills — they’re “far more alike than they are different,” a spokesman said — many of the conclusions apply to the Senate bill.

Both versions would cut the amount of federal Medicaid dollars the state receives, forcing the state to come up with an additional $800 million to maintain the Medicaid expansion that occurred under Obamacare. Barring that, people would lose coverage.

On top of that, a new structure of a per-capita cap on Medicaid spending would require the state to come up with another $165 million per year just to cover the elderly, the disabled and the poor. So the state would have to cut Medicaid spending or slash other areas of the budget, like transportation and education.

Having reached a bipartisan compromise to preserve critical funding for rural hospitals, it’s hard to imagine members of the General Assembly welcoming a new set of budgetary challenges brought on by the hyperpartisan fight over health care policy.

Slashing the Medicaid program, which covers 1.3 million Coloradans, would simply shift costs, not eliminate them, forcing state lawmakers to be the heavies in deciding who’s covered and at what cost to roads, schools or any number of critical services.

This, of course, says nothing of the out-of-pocket costs to individual consumers predicted to increase under the Senate bill.

All of this to say, why the rush? With so much at stake and with barely any time to digest the Congressional Budget Office numbers (22 million fewer Americans insured under the bill by 2026) why the push for a quick vote?

Consider the outcomes: Either Republicans succeed on this repeal promise, risking people’s lives and voter retribution in the process, or they fail to garner the votes needed to pass their bill, thus preserving a flawed health-care law that can’t be fixed without their input. Who really wins?

Negotiating in secret and jamming a bill through the legislative process is what got us here in the first place. Repeating that process won’t solve anything.


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