Parties need to unite to pass health care program
“Our politics are divided,” observed former President Barack Obama, “They have been for a long time. And while I know that division makes it difficult to listen to Americans with whom we disagree, that is what we need to do today.”
In a rare display of bipartisanship, Colorado Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper joined with Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich to assert “as governors from opposite sides of the political aisle, we feel that true and lasting reforms are best approached by finding common ground in a bipartisan fashion.”
The best place to look for that common ground, the governors assert, is to restore stability to our nation’s health insurance system.
“To think that one party can make this work is crazy,” Hickenlooper told CNN anchor Anderson Cooper. Democrats have been shut out of closed-door discussions in the Senate where the bill was drafted in such secrecy that even most Republicans did not know what was in it.
With few changes, the final senate bill closely resembles the bill passed by the House last month.
“It is clear that the bill passed by the House in May will not meet the challenges of our health care system,” the governors wrote. “This bill calls into question coverage for the vulnerable, fails to provide the necessary resources to ensure that no one is left out and puts the health and well-being of millions of hard-working people in our states at risk, while shifting significant costs to the states. Medicaid provisions included in this bill are particularly problematic.”
What the bill does do, despite claims to the contrary by some Republicans, is to cut $880 billion from Medicaid to offset a huge tax cut for the rich.
Hickenlooper said the Republican plan risks the health care of 600,000 Coloradans. “My message to all the senators is to work with Republican governors and Democratic governors. Let’s really see if there is a way to control the inflation, reduce the cost of Medicaid and not roll back everybody’s coverage. I think there is a way to do that,” he said.
As a first step toward creating a blueprint “that can result in an improved health insurance system that is available and affordable for every American,” the governors agreed on a set of “guiding principles that will positively impact the coverage and care of millions of Americans, including many dealing with mental illness, chronic health problems and drug addiction.”
The principles include improving affordability, improving the regulatory environment and addressing the uncertainty in the current health insurance market that contributes to instability.
To improve affordability, insurance reforms must be combined with reforms addressing rising health care costs. Insurance reforms should be consistent with “sound and sustainable cost-control practices,” the analysis said.
To restore stability to insurance markets, Americans not insured through employers or government plans should be able to choose from a “healthy, stable and competitive market of insurers.”
Americans won’t get that healthy insurance market from the Republican bill.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office predicted that an earlier version of the American Health Care Act would result in 14 million Americans losing coverage within the first year, and 24 million within a decade. The CBO’s assessment of the Senate bill isn’t much rosier. It found that next year, 15 million more people would be uninsured compared with current law. Premiums and out-of-pocket expenses could increase for some low-income people and for people nearing retirement, it said.
A new report released this month reveals that rural Coloradans would be hurt most by planned Republican changes to the health care system by cutting parts of the current law that help small towns and by shifting benefits to big cities.
With some senate Republicans showing signs of weakening support for the draconian cuts in Medicaid their leaders are proposing, the likelihood the bill will not pass the Senate grows. In that event, it will be back to the drawing board for Senate Republicans.
Meantime, the prospect of cooperation between governors of both parties may render the Senate superfluous unless they are prepared to work with the governors.
That would be fine with the governors. As the Hickenlooper/Kasich letter states, “As governors, we and our colleagues who have signed on to this effort stand ready to work with our congressional delegations to develop a proposal that is fiscally sound and provides affordable coverage for our most vulnerable citizens. Our states — and all Americans — deserve nothing less.”
The next move appears to be up to the Senate Republicans.