Adela Flores-Brennan for The Tribune
Margie Plane has good reason to closely follow the news in Washington, D.C., from her home in Fort Morgan. Both 71-year-old Margie and her daughter Hope — who has cerebral palsy — rely on Medicaid’s long-term care for daily living. Without Medicaid, they won’t be able to afford the daily care they need, forcing them to move into a nursing home.
Margie told me, “Medicaid does everything for me. I get my oxygen and CPAP through Medicaid. My home health support, my prescriptions, hospitalizations, ambulance rides, surgeries, rehabilitation care and therapies.”
“Go without Medicaid? I would have to choose my wheelchair and my caregiver — who is my arms and legs,” added Hope. “These choices could cost me my home and my independence.”
These are the faces I hope our Senators will see as the U.S. Senate debates the Republican health insurance bill called the American Health Care Act. The U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed the ACHA which ends Medicaid as we know it, strips protections for people with pre-existing conditions and increases the out-of-pocket costs consumers face, all to provide a massive tax cut for the wealthy.
This unprecedented vote took place without an updated analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
But now we know: with the new CBO score, we see what the House blindly voted to pass. The CBO shows us that the AHCA will not only slash health care access, affordability and quality, it will cost taxpayers and our economy dearly with 23 million people expected to lose coverage in the first decade of implementation and over $800 billion in cuts to Medicaid
Most tragically, the AHCA would have devastating effects on the most vulnerable among us: seniors, people with disabilities and families with children at risk — in other words, on Coloradans like Margie and Hope. The CBO analysis shows that the bill disastrously cuts $880 billion from Medicaid, causing 14 million Americans and at least 600,000 Coloradans to lose coverage. Over 80 percent of Americans oppose this.
By dramatically cutting and radically restructuring the entire Medicaid program through a per-capita cap or block grant, basic coverage is at risk. All told, by 2030, these changes would shift $14 billion in costs — to fund the care for our seniors, people with disabilities and kids — to Colorado, wreaking havoc on our state budget.
Such cuts would force states like Colorado to ration care for 1.3 million Coloradans currently covered by Medicaid. We’d have to cut benefits and raise out-of-pocket costs — or just take away coverage altogether. That’s not a decision we should even be contemplating.
In the House, before this updated CBO analysis, three of our Colorado representatives blindly voted in favor of this bill. Rep. Mike Coffman had the good sense to listen to constituents and buck his party to vote against the bill pushed through in a rushed and opaque process. We thank Reps. Coffman, DeGette, Perlmutter and Polis for their votes against this terrible bill.
The president and Republicans promised they would improve health care and not take away coverage from anyone, but this analysis shows they are breaking their promise, creating massive tax breaks for the richest while slashing health care for the rest of us.
We can see clearly now: this is a wealth-care bill disguised as a health-care bill.
We look to Senators Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet to stand with Coloradans. Our senators should pledge to oppose any bill that ends Medicaid expansion, caps or guts Medicaid for seniors, people with disabilities and children, or makes insurance coverage less affordable.
Adela Flores-Brennan is the executive director of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, a nonpartisan, nonprofit coalition representing 45-plus Colorado health organizations with more than 500,000 health care consumer members to advocate for affordable, accessible, quality health care for all Coloradans.
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