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Local Reactions To The Senate Health Care Bill32:12
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Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell smiles as he leaves the chamber after announcing the release of the Republicans' healthcare bill which represents the party's long-awaited attempt to scuttle much of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 22, 2017. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell smiles as he leaves the chamber after announcing the release of the Republicans' healthcare bill which represents the party's long-awaited attempt to scuttle much of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 22, 2017. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

For weeks, the Senate has been working on a secret health care bill. As of Thursday, the secret's out.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor on Thursday morning to praise the Senate bill. "Obamacare isn't working," he said. "By nearly every measure it has failed, and no amount of 11th hour reality-denying or buck-passing by Democrats is going to change the fact that more Americans are going to get hurt unless we do something."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer pushed back. On the Senate floor he said, "The president said the Senate bill needed heart. The way this bill cuts health care is heartless. The president said the House bill was mean. The Senate bill may be meaner. The Senate Republican health care bill is a wolf in sheep's clothing, only this wolf has even sharper teeth than the House bill."

Sen. Elizabeth Warren went even further, saying she believes that, if the bill becomes law, some people who lose their health care may lose their lives. "Senate Republicans had to make a choice: how to pay for all those juicy tax cuts for their rich buddies," she said. "I'll tell you how. Blood money."

Meanwhile, a group of demonstrators, some of whom are members of the disability community and in wheelchairs, protested outside of McConnell's Senate office, chanting, "No cuts to Medicaid, save our liberty!"

Guests

Elisabeth Rosenthal, editor-in-chief of Kaiser Health News and author of "An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back." She tweets @RosenthalHealth.

Jon Kingsdale, associate professor of health law, policy, and management at Boston University School of Public Health, and former head of the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority. He tweets @JKingsdale.

Sen. Maggie Hassan, Democratic senator from New Hampshire. She tweets @SenatorHassan.

Interview Highlights

On Hassan’s reaction to the Senate’s health care bill

"The majority leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans took the House Trumpcare Bill [Better Care Reconciliation Act], which even President Trump called mean, and have managed to make it even more heartless. As we examine this bill, we are seeing that if you buy your own insurance you would have to pay more for your coverage. You could face an age tax, which would be especially harmful if you were between the ages of 50 and 64. And, you could see states undermine the requirements that insurance companies have to cover the most important services. This is a really a bill that takes away health coverage from millions of people and drive prices up.

It also ends Medicaid expansion. In New Hampshire, we have a bipartisan medicaid expansion plan that was authorized under the Affordable Care Act. The Senate Republican's Trumpcare takes that away and that will make it much harder to fight the heroin and opioid epidemic."

On the New Hampshire residents who would be affected by Medicaid cuts

"There are tens of thousands of people in New Hampshire who rely on Medicaid in a state whose total population is 1.3 million people. About 50 thousand hard working Granite Staters get coverage through Medicaid expansion, which covers opioid substance misuse treatment and behavioral health among other things. There are also people with disabilities as well as our seniors. Most of the seniors in nursing homes are covered by Medicaid and about 30 percent of children in New Hampshire get their health insurance coverage through Medicaid.

And what the Senate Republican Trumpcare bill does is make even more significant cuts to Medicaid then the House bill did. Cutting it by billions and billions of dollars. Which means that states will have to decide whether to cut eligibility, cut services, or both. Or find a way to make up the money but every governor I talked to said they don’t think they can find a way to do that."

On the $2 billion in opioid funding included in the Senate bill

"You shouldn't be distracted by small symbolic attempts in this bill to get votes. Let’s be really clear. Even when the press reports said there was going to 45 billion dollars for heroin and opioid treatment in this bill, experts were saying that was not going to be nearly enough.

But, here’s the bigger issue. Substance abuse disorder is a complex disorder that usually has its root in some kind of injury or trauma. To say that you are going to have a siloed source of money just to treat people who have addiction without having the kind of coverage that allows them to get access to integrated health care.

So, for instance, treatment for the underlying injury for which they were subscribed opioids in the first place or behavioral health treatment. Behavioral health problems often co-occurring the substance abuse disorder. If you don’t have an integrated health care system that understand opioid addiction as the illness that it is and has the capacity to treat all the root causes of it, you’re not going to beat this epidemic. As far as I can see, the $2 billion in there is window dressing as an attempt to get some votes from senators who are very concerned, as they should be, about the epidemic in their state."

On whether the Republicans giving Senate Democrats the opportunity to offer any amendment to the bill is enough for the Democrats

"First of all we asked for more than the ten hours of debate that the Senate Republicans say they are going to offer us next Thursday on a bill that impacts millions of Americans and about a sixth of our economy. When the Affordable Care Act was passed — I wasn’t here — but what I understand was there were a combined hundred different hearings between our finance committee and our health committee where stakeholder and expert and constituent input was invited. There was 25 days of debate and hundred of amendments including 180 or something like that, Republican amendments included, in the Affordable Care Act.

But members of our health care committee, the Democratic members, two weeks ago asked for a hearing on this bill because you don’t change major policy like this without getting input from all the stakeholder groups. But this is being rushed through by all the Republicans because they know how unpopular it is."

This segment aired on June 22, 2017.

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