Lacking far fewer than the requisite 50 votes, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell abruptly canceled a vote on the Senate “health care” bill that would lead to 22 million fewer people with health insurance coverage nationwide. Senate leaders say they intend to continue working to find the votes needed by the end of the week, with a new vote planned after the July 4 recess. The move came on the heels of the Congressional Budget Office report on the bill. The New York Times’ Thomas Kaplan and Robert Pear:
In 2026, the budget office said, 15 million fewer people would have Medicaid coverage under the Senate bill than under the Affordable Care Act, and seven million fewer people would have coverage they purchased on their own. Faced with deep cuts in Medicaid, the report said, state officials would face unpalatable choices: restrict eligibility, eliminate services, reduce payments to health care providers and health plans, or spend more of their own money. Appearing in Washington, Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio cited the 22 million projection and expressed bewilderment that fellow Republicans would be on board with the bill. “And they think that’s great?” he asked. “That’s good public policy? What, are you kidding me?”
Louisiana’s senators remain uncommitted, according to The Advocate’s Mark Ballard. Last week, Sen. Bill Cassidy told The Advocate’s Elizabeth Crisp: “I will study the bill to determine whether it fulfills President Trump’s campaign promises to lower premiums, maintain coverage and protect those with preexisting conditions without mandates.” The bill plainly fails that test as average premiums are projected to rise 74 percent, 22 million people are projected to lose coverage, a loophole exists that exposes people with pre-existing medical conditions to higher costs and there’s a new mandate.
Nola.com/The Times-Picayune’s Tim Morris’ message: start over.
Something clearly needs to be done. But with something as “unbelievably complex” as health care, a rush to pass some very flawed legislation is not the answer. It’s time for Republicans to throw in the towel on “repeal and replace” and work for a deal — something bipartisan would be nice — to fix the problems with the existing law and move forward.
Investing in kids
In order to move forward, Louisiana needs to invest more in our youngest citizens, according to the Nola.com/The Times-Picayune editorial board. Their editorial cites two threats to that investment: one at the federal level:
But who knows what will happen to that number (of children with health insurance) if Congress goes ahead with deep cuts to Medicaid as proposed in both the House and Senate health care bills. That federal program is how Louisiana dramatically increased health coverage for children over the past 20 years.
And one at the state level:
Because lawmakers balanced the budget partly with temporary taxes in the past two years, Louisiana is facing a billion-plus dollar “fiscal cliff” when the taxes expire in 2018. The Legislature would have to replace those taxes just to keep services from being cut further.
Meanwhile, Melanie Bronfin of the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children and Hannah Matthews of the Center for Law and Social Policy wrote a letter to The Advocate discussing what’s at stake for kids in the health care debate.
A cap in federal funding poses a significant risk that Louisiana would not receive enough funding to keep pace with the rising cost of health care while simultaneously continuing to provide the same coverage, benefits, and payments to providers. As a result, state policymakers would be forced to decide how to make up the difference. This, in turn, would squeeze state funding for other services, including Louisiana’s high-quality pre-kindergarten programs that put young children on a successful path.
Making things worse
Instead of fixing the problems in the health system, the U.S. Senate bill makes them all worse: by offering skimpier plans, higher out of pocket costs and less coverage. And it goes a step further by deeply cutting the Medicaid program that provides care for seniors, disabled children and workers struggling to make ends meet. The Brookings Institution’s Henry J. Aaron explains:
It would deliver worse insurance, cover fewer people, and raise costs for coverage of a given quality. It would end the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid. Additional cuts in federal support for Medicaid would eventually force states to narrow the number of people Medicaid serves, the benefits it provides, or both. The Senate bill’s proposed Medicaid cuts far exceed those of the House-passed American Health Care Act that President Trump labeled as “mean.”
The American people agree. A new poll pegs national approval of the plan at 17 percent, with 55 percent of Americans opposed.
Edwards issues vetoes
Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a series of vetoes Tuesday, nixing bills dealing with campus free speech, transportation and the state appropriations process. The Advocate’s Will Sentell has the story:
In another area, the governor said he vetoed the highway bill because it would “inappropriately” inject politics into state road and bridge projects. In that veto message, Edwards noted the bill would allow state lawmakers to add and substitute transportation projects onto the official list compiled by the state Department of Transportation and Development. “This would inappropriately inject politics into a process that should be based on data and needs,” he wrote.
Deficient rural roads and bridges
A new report from the transportation research group TRIP found that Louisiana’s rural roads and bridges are among the worst in the nation. A coalition of business groups worked assiduously to get more funding during the 2017 legislative session to no avail. Nola.com/The Times-Picayune’s Wilborn P. Nobles III has the story:
Kenneth Perret, president of the Louisiana Good Roads and Transportation Association, stated in a TRIP news release that “it’s no coincidence” that Louisiana is near the top of the list of deficient roads and bridges in the country while it’s also near the bottom of the list in state transportation investment. “Until the Louisiana Legislature does its job and adequately funds transportation, these types of reports will only get worse,” Perret stated. “The Legislature in the recently completed session failed to act.”
Number of the Day
74 – Percent increase in average monthly after-tax-credit premiums under Senate health bill (Source: Kaiser Family Foundation)