Sunday, June 25, 2017

Republican Healthcare Bill Gives Tax Cuts to the Rich by Gutting Safety Net for Poor & Middle Class

From Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman:

After weeks of secret deliberations, Republican senators released a healthcare proposal that would remove millions of low-income and disabled people from Medicaid, prompting protests on Capitol Hill that are expected to continue throughout the country. The bill would also cut subsidies to purchase health insurance, allow states to effectively eliminate protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and defund Planned Parenthood for a year. It was negotiated behind closed doors between 13 Republican male senators. We get response from Harvard professor John McDonough, a chief architect of Romneycare who also worked on the development and passage of the Affordable Care Act, and speak with Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, a key advocate for Medicare for All.
AMY GOODMAN: After weeks of secret deliberations, Republican senators Thursday released a healthcare bill that would reduce key benefits for millions of Americans. The Better Care Reconciliation Act would fund a large capital gains tax cut for the rich by removing millions of low-income and disabled people from Medicaid. According to the Center on Budget [and] Policy Priorities, $33 billion of the tax cuts would benefit the 400 wealthiest U.S. households. The Senate bill would also reduce subsidies to individuals to purchase health insurance, and would allow states to eliminate protections for people with pre-existing conditions. The measure would defund Planned Parenthood for a year, making breast cancer screenings and basic reproductive services more difficult for women to secure.
While drafting the legislation, President Trump had called on Republicans to improve the House plan by giving it more, quote, "heart." The bill was negotiated behind closed doors between 13 Republican white male senators. This is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
SEN. MITCH McCONNELL: We agreed on the need to free Americans from Obamacare’s mandates. And policies contained in the discussion draft will repeal the individual mandate, so Americans are no longer forced to buy insurance they don’t need or can’t afford; will repeal the employer mandate, so Americans no longer see their hours and take-home pay cut by employers because of it.
AMY GOODMAN: Senator McConnell says he wants to vote on the healthcare bill next week, before Congress leaves for the Fourth of July recess. Republicans can only afford to lose two votes for the measure to pass with 50 votes. Four Republican senators—Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Ron Johnson and Mike Lee—said Thursday they’ll oppose the bill in its current form, arguing it fails to cut Medicaid benefits enough. The bill is similar to a House measure that would leave more than 20 million Americans without health insurance. The Congressional Budget Office has yet to score the Senate bill. Democrats are firmly united against the bill. This is Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER: This is a bill designed to strip away healthcare benefits and protections from Americans who need it most, in order to give a tax break to the folks who need it least. This is a bill that would end Medicaid as we know it, rolling back Medicaid expansion, cutting federal support for the program even more than the House bill, which cut Medicaid by $800 billion.
AMY GOODMAN: This comes as scores of disabled protesters held a sit-in outside Senator Mitch McConnell’s office on Capitol Hill Thursday and demonstrators gathered at Washington, D.C.’s National Airport to target Republican lawmakers as they left town for their home states.
Also on Thursday, Barack Obama weighed in on efforts to scale back his signature healthcare law. He posted a scathing statement on Facebook that said, quote, "The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill. It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America," President Obama said.
For more, we host a roundtable discussion with three guests. Joining us from Boston, John McDonough, professor at Harvard Chan School of Public Health, served as a senior adviser on national health reform to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions from 2008 to 2010. And from 2003 to '08, he served as executive director of Health Care for All in Massachusetts, playing a key role in passage of the 2006 Massachusetts health reform law. He's the author of Inside National Health Reform.
Also in Boston, Dr. Steffie Woolhandler joins us, a professor at CUNY-Hunter College and a primary care physician. She’s a lecturer at Harvard Medical School and the co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program. She is a well-known national advocate for Medicare for all.
And in Aspen, Colorado, we’re joined by Dr. Willie Parker, physician, abortion provider, and board chair of Physicians for Reproductive Health. His new book, Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice.
We welcome you all back to Democracy Now! Let’s begin with Professor McDonough. Can you lay out what the Republicans presented, after weeks of secret negotiations with other Republicans?
JOHN McDONOUGH: So, I think that the statements from Senator Schumer articulated it well. What is essentially going on here is the Affordable Care Act was an attempt to improve the nation’s healthcare system and expand coverage and deal with other issues. And it was paid for significantly by new taxes on wealthy Americans and some very powerful corporate interests. The new bill in the House, and reflected in the Senate, is an attempt to do major tax cuts for wealthy Americans and powerful corporate interests, financed by decimating the Medicaid program and other essential parts of the nation’s healthcare safety net. So, that is clearly what’s going on.
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