Medicaid Not Millionaires

On the heels of a delay in the expected vote, Tennesseans, including Tennessee Citizen Action members, health care advocates and Medicaid patients this week called on Senators Alexander and Corker to reject proposals that will gut life-saving Medicaid for 74 million working families, children, seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities to pay for tax breaks for the wealthy and big corporations.


The event at the Nashville offices of both Alexander and Corker was part of a national “Medicaid Not Millionaires” Day of Action led by Health Care for America Now (HCAN) partners across the country.


“It’s no wonder Republicans in Congress wanted to hide this bill from the American people as long as possible. It would strip health care from millions of Americans and end Medicaid as we know it to pay for big tax breaks for the wealthy and big corporations,” said Andy Spears, executive director of Tennessee Citizen Action. “Senators Alexander and Corker cannot justify a vote for a bill that is not only cruel but also bad policy that asks their constituents to pay more for less.”


The Senate repeal bill closely mirrors the House repeal bill. It takes coverage away from 22 million people; weakens coverage and consumer protections for everyone with private insurance; eliminates Medicaid expansion; and ends Medicaid’s guarantee of coverage for children, seniors, and people with disabilities who had Medicaid even before the Affordable Care Act. And it makes those cuts to pay for $541 billion in tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations.


Ending Medicaid expansion alone would take health care away from up to 251,000 Tennesseans, but the Senate isn’t stopping there. The Senate bill makes even deeper, permanent cuts to Medicaid than the House bill by radically restructuring the federal funding for the basic Medicaid program to starve it over the years, forcing eligibility and benefit cuts, creating huge burdens for state budgets, closing hospitals and costing millions of health care jobs.


“Without Medicaid, my son would not have the services he needs,” said John Shouse, whose Autistic son  receives services funded by Medicaid. “Medicaid is a lifeline for our family and millions of others across the country. It’s despicable that Republican senators are even thinking about voting for a bill that will have such devastating consequences for their constituents.”


Medicaid provides coverage to one in five Americans, including 30 million children. It pays for half the births in the United States, 75% of all family planning services, 64% of nursing home care, and 30% of all care for people with disabilities. Nearly 2 million veterans get health care through Medicaid. Medicaid also costs far less per beneficiary than either Medicare or private health insurance, and its costs have been rising more slowly than private insurance.


The Republican bill’s radical changes in Medicaid funding will cripple states faced with health emergencies like the opioid crisis. It will be up to each state alone to manage health care emergencies without additional support from the federal government.


And the Senate is making these cuts to pay for increased tax breaks for insurance and prescription drug companies, which are particularly egregious given rising profits over the past several years. The eight biggest insurance companies increased profits by one-third from 2011 to 2015, rising from $19.1 billion to $25.3 billion. The average cost of brand name drugs widely used by older Americans for chronic conditions more than tripled between 2006 and 2015, climbing from $1,788 to $5,897 according to a recent report from AARP.


“What makes this bill so morally bankrupts is that it’s all in the name of claiming a win and doling out tax breaks to the wealthy and insurance and drug companies,” said Spears. “This bill represents the single largest transfer of wealth in our nation’s history from poor and working families and those most vulnerable in our society to the wealthiest people and corporations.”


National organizations including AARP, the American Cancer Society, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Hospital Association, the Catholic Council of Bishops, the March of Dimes and many other groups oppose the AHCA. Recent polls confirm that voters also oppose this repeal by a three to one margin and is the single least popular piece of federal legislation in decades.


For more on the fight for access to affordable health care, follow @TNCitizenAction



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