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Rick Wilson: McConnell’s wealth care bill still bad for nation (Gazette)

I wish there was a nice to say this, but there’s not.

There are some things you just can’t polish. One such is the latest incarnation of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s bill, which is still more about wealth care than health care.

The previous version of the bill, which was pulled in the wake of its near universal unpopularity, would have taken away health care from more than 20 million Americans to provide tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

The new version includes some cosmetic changes but is still bad, albeit in slightly different ways. It dials back on some tax cuts but doubles down on pre-existing conditions. Worse still, it retains some of the worst parts of the previous version.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “The major changes included in the updated text of the Senate bill would do little or nothing to mitigate the harm the bill would do, and some would exacerbate problems in the bill.”

Specifically, it notes the latest bill would still end Medicaid expansion for low-income working adults; cap and cut Medicaid for seniors, children and people with disabilities; raise premiums and deductibles for those who purchase insurance on the market; and undermine consumer protections for pre-existing conditions.

Of all these, probably the worst part would be the structural changes and cuts to the 52-year-old Medicaid program, which provides crucial care to more than 70 million Americans and supports much of the nation’s health care infrastructure, not to mention jobs.

Recently in the JAMA Forum (Journal of the American Medical Association), two former federal administrators of the Medicare and Medicaid programs warned of the dangers of following this course.

The authors were Gail Wilensky, a Republican who directed these programs under President George H.W. Bush, and Andy Slavitt, a Democrat who served as acting administrator for those programs under President Barack Obama. Despite their political differences, the authors “take pride in the accomplishments of these two programs, which collectively help millions of U.S. residents get the care they need.”

The problem is the proposed legislation goes far beyond addressing issues with the Affordable Care Act and will have far-reaching negative consequences. Instead, the authors call on Congress “to separate reforms to the Medicaid program from the most pressing task at hand — stabilizing and improving the nongroup market.”

They argue, “Medicaid is a successful program. Even though it focuses on the most challenging problems in health care, support for the program is more than 70 percent, beneficiary satisfaction is high, and most U.S. adults don’t want to see the program cut.”

I agree. Medicaid is too important to the lives and well-being of millions of Americans, from infants to the aged, to be sacrificed on the altar of political expediency.

West Virginia’s Sen. Shelley Moore Capito and a handful of senate moderates can keep this from happening.

I hope they do.

Rick Wilson, director of the American Friends Service Committee’s Economic Justice Project, is a Gazette contributing columnist.

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