GOP releases healthcare bill to public

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Republicans in the U.S. Senate, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), have released their version of the anti-Obama healthcare bill President Trump and the GOP are trying to push through Congress and into law.

The Senate version was crafted in secrecy, behind closed doors, allegedly by 13 men, with only a few staffers and lobbyists allowed to see it before today. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) was one of the Republicans picked to be on the committee to draft the bill, but earlier this week he released a video telling his constituents he hadn’t seen the bill at all. In it he said, “I’ve had a lot of people ask me, specifically, when the health care bill is going to be released to the public, why it isn’t public? The short answer to the question is that I haven’t seen it either.”

Even the senior Senator from Utah, Republican Orrin Hatch told Bloomberg News he wasn’t sure anyone knew the full details of the bill, although his staff tried to clarify by insisting the senator’s office had been working on the bill for weeks.

That message confirmed what had been rumored: only a very select few white men were allowed to work on the bill. The question has been: who are these privileged few?

Rep. Karen Bass at the 2016 Democratic National Convention (YouTube)

On Thursday morning Representative Karen Bass (D-CA) had this to say: “Today, 13 men came out of a room with a plan for the nation’s healthcare system that forgets women, people of color, people with disabilities, the sick, the poor and the old. The goal of this Senate bill isn’t to provide health coverage; it’s to bankrupt Medicaid and re-gift tax benefits for the wealthy. This bill will devastate the economy, forcing Americans aged 50-64 to pay premiums five times higher than what others pay for health coverage, no matter how healthy they are. Republicans shut the American people out of writing this bill, and if it passes, the American people will be shut out of affordable healthcare, too. The bottom line is that vote for this bill is a vote to take away health coverage from millions of Americans throughout the country. There’s no way around it: That’s just cruel. This is beyond Trumpcare. This is Republicare.”

The bill could come up for a vote as early as next week and Leader McConnell has told the Democrats there will be only 10 hours to debate it and add amendments. Even members of McConnell’s own party are not yet behind the bill. Lee, along with senators Rand Paul (R-KY), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) released a statement saying they could not support the bill at this time. “Currently, for a variety of reasons, we are not ready to vote for this bill, but we are open to negotiation and obtaining more information before it is brought to the floor. There are provisions in this draft that represent an improvement to our current healthcare system but it does not appear this draft as written will accomplish the most important promise that we made to Americans: to repeal Obamacare and lower their healthcare costs.”

Currently the bill is waiting to be scored by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) before it goes to the Senate for debate and a vote. The CBO scoring for the House bill concluded over 20 million people would lose coverage and costs would go up significantly for the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions.

The Senate bill has huge cuts to Medicaid designed to phase out the Medicaid expansion in the Affordable Care Act, which would take healthcare away from millions. As Rep. Bass put it, this bill is a re-gifting to the wealthiest among us at the expense of the poorest and the middle class. It also defunds Planned Parenthood, a measure that would keep Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) from voting for the bill.

Then there are the “high risk pools” that will force people with pre-existing conditions to get insurance and greatly inflated costs.

Now is the time to resist the GOP efforts to send America backwards. We are the only civilized nation that treats healthcare like a privilege and forces the poor and elderly to suffer for lack of adequate healthcare.

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UPDATE: Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) released a statement that said, ““It appears that Senate Republicans have done the impossible: they’ve made a morally bankrupt, heartless health care plan even worse.

“Once again, President Trump and his Republican friends have shown just how out-of-touch they are with the needs and concerns of the American people. This bill would kick struggling families off of Medicaid and disproportionately devastate communities of color. It would force desperate moms to choose between paying the mortgage or taking a sick child to the doctor. And it would impose an age tax on older Americans on the brink of retirement.

“Republicans are willingly gambling with the health of our loved ones and neighbors, just to secure another massive tax break for their billionaire donors.

“Now we know why Senate Republicans tried to hide this bill in a backroom – this cruel legislation should never see the light of day.

“Members of Congress should take heed: they work for the American people, not health insurance CEOs. I urge our leaders on both sides of the aisle to reject this inhumane, anti-health bill and stand up for the working families they were elected to protect.”

Top photo: Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) asking the GOP, “What do you have to be afraid of?” as they were writing the healthcare bill in secret.