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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 6/26/17

The Secret Healthcare Bill

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From Robert Reich Blog

Mitch McConnell
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The Senate's bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act is not a healthcare bill. It's a tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, paid for by a dramatic reduction in healthcare funding for approximately 23 million poor, disabled, and working middle class Americans.

America's wealthiest taxpayers (earning more than $200,000 a year, $250,000 for couples) would get a tax cut totaling $346 billion over 10 years, representing what they save from no longer financing healthcare for lower-income Americans.

That's not all. The bill would save an additional $400 billion on Medicaid, which Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and Donald Trump are intent on shrinking in order to cut even more taxes for the wealthy and for big corporations.

If enacted, it would be the largest single transfer of wealth to the rich from the middle class and poor in American history.

This disgrace is being proposed at a time when the nation's rich own a higher percentage of the nation's wealth and receive the highest percent of America's income since the era of the Robber Barons of the late nineteenth century.

Almost all of the transfer is hidden inside a bill that's supposed to be a kinder and gentler version of its House counterpart, which Trump called "mean, mean, mean."

Look closely and it's even meaner.

The Senate bill appears to retain the Affordable Care Act's subsidies for poorer Americans. But starting in 2020, the subsidies would no longer be available for many of the working poor who now receive them, nor for anyone who's not eligible for Medicaid.

Another illusion: The bill seems to keep the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion. But the expansion is phased out, starting in 2021.

The core of the bill -- where its biggest savings come from -- is a huge reduction in Medicaid, America's healthcare program for the poor, elderly, and disabled.

This, too, is disguised. States would receive an amount of money per Medicaid recipient that appears to grow as healthcare costs rise.

But starting in 2025, the payments would be based on how fast costs rise in the economy as a whole.

Yet medical costs are rising faster than overall costs. They'll almost surely continue to do so -- as America's elderly population grows, and as new medical devices, technologies, and drugs prolong life.

Which means that after 2025, Medicaid coverage will shrink.

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Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, has a new film, "Inequality for All," to be released September 27. He blogs at www.robertreich.org.

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