Senators speak to the potential impact of repealing and replacement of the Affordable Care Act | TheFencePost.com

Senators speak to the potential impact of repealing and replacement of the Affordable Care Act

The Hagstrom Report

Republican senators are headed home to try to develop support for their bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare, but they may find opposition in rural areas from Senate Democrats, the National Farmers Union and even some of their own officials.

Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., who is also chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, held a hearing-like event June 23 with other Democratic senators on "How the Republican Health Care Bill Would Devastate Rural America."

Stabenow said, after the score of the bill was released early last week, it would be "a bad deal" for all Americans.

"The Republican bill does nothing to address rising out-of-pocket and prescription drug costs. Instead, it will raise costs for families, take away medical coverage, and use the savings to give a major tax cut to the wealthiest Americans," Stabenow said. "And, buried it in the fine print, this bill will end the expanded Medicaid coverage that was used to help children and pregnant moms with lead exposure in Flint get comprehensive health care. I urge my Senate Republican colleagues to vote 'no' on proceeding to this bill, and instead, work with us to lower costs and improve health care for all Americans."

National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson testified at the Senate Democratic event, and last week sent NFU members a message urging them to call their senators "to let them know you stand opposed."

"NFU is opposed to the (Better Care Reconciliation Act) and its U.S. House of Representatives companion bill, the Affordable Health Care Act, as they will have serious negative impacts on family farmers' and ranchers' ability to access affordable health care," Johnson said. "Both bills propose significantly cutting Medicaid, allowing insurers to charge older customers more, cutting subsidies for younger farmers and ranchers, and allowing states to opt out of essential health benefits requirements. These proposals will lead to significant increases in uncovered health expenses."

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At the Democrat event, health care providers and other experts testified on the bill's potential impact, and Stabenow noted that the Republicans have not held any hearings on the bill.

Other senators also participated in the event, which is available on YouTube.

Meanwhile, Politico reported last week that even Republican officials, many from rural areas, are not impressed with the effort to put more money in the bill to combat the opioid crisis.

Noting that addiction experts have said it will make no sense to put in more money to fight addiction and then cut access to regular health care, Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich said, "That's like spitting in the ocean."

West Virginia Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, for instance, who has sought an infusion of $45 billion in opioid funding in the bill along with Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman, said Wednesday that that money would have to be paired with more generous Medicaid provisions to get her support, Politico said.

"To me, it goes hand-in-hand," Capito said on CNN Wednesday morning. "You won't access the [substance abuse] treatment without the [health insurance] coverage, whether from the exchanges or Medicaid."

Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., whose state has had a devastating problem with opioid addiction, said that it's absurd to think that a "siloed small amount of money" for opioid treatment can work without an integrated health system, Politico added.

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