WNPR

Democrats: We Are In For A Fight On Health Bill

Jul 14, 2017

Connecticut U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal said Democrats remain implacably opposed to the Republicans’ latest version of health care reform. A rewritten bill was released Thursday, in an effort to bring on board wavering senators from both conservative and moderate wings of the Republican party. 

But Blumenthal said as far as he’s concerned, they’ve made the bill even worse.

"We’re going to continue to fight," he told a news conference Friday. "Never underestimate the Republican leadership, particularly Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. We expect that we are in for a fight next week, and we are mobilizing every constituency, every individual, every professional group that can bring its weight to bear."

He said McConnell will try to bring a vote on Tuesday to allow a formal debate on the bill.

The leader is hoping that the offer that the bill can be amended will be enough to sway critics in his own party.

But Blumenthal said he hopes wavering Senators won't take the bait.

"The amendments are futile," he said. "This measure is so deeply flawed, it is truly rotten to the core. And that’s why we need to fight the effort to go forward on the motion to proceed, and kill this measure now. And then be able to come together on a bipartisan basis."

Blumenthal said he’s most concerned that the legislation would gut the Medicaid program, leaving many lower income people without health care options.

Meanwhile, experts in the field say changes to the Republicans’ repeal bill could make life even more difficult for state exchanges like Connecticut’s.

This latest iteration of the Senate health care bill is supposed to bring on board both hard line conservatives and more moderate Republicans who had problems with the initial drafting.

It includes a version of what’s come to be known as the Cruz amendment, first floated by Texas senator Ted Cruz.

“So I think it really could undermine what the exchanges are doing,” said Rosemarie Day, of Day Health Strategies, a Massachusetts based consulting company.

She said the Cruz idea, to allow insurers to sell cheaper, stripped down plans to healthier people on the individual market, will mean only sicker, more expensive people remain on the state exchanges like Access Health Connecticut, that sell plans compliant with the higher standards of the Affordable Care Act.

Day said insurers don’t like the idea.

"They are running their numbers and saying you would indeed see insurance prices go up in the individual market because of this bifurcation of the risk pool," she said. "So people who have pre-existing conditions or who are just a little bit older would see their insurance prices go up."

But it’s not only the exchanges that could see an impact.

Day said other provisions that are still part of this bill will start to have an effect on people insured through their employers.

"The erosion of protections for people with pre-existing conditions and even getting at what are now prohibited caps on lifetime limits -- that trickles into folks who may think they’re protected because they have employer sponsored insurance," she said. "They aren’t on Medicaid, they aren’t buying through the exchanges, and yet a lot of these things in the Senate bill will have a ripple effect to folks who again may think they’re protected now, and they will lose some of those protections."

A score from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimating the impact of the bill is expected Monday.