Murphy, DeLauro: Fight GOP Health Care Bill

Allan Appel PhotoMark Federchuk is a Trump supporter who as a younger man used to drive a big tractor-trailer on “The Road to Nowhere”, an Alaskan infrastructure project of 2005 that has grown to become a symbol of the waste in government.

He thought that was the problem — not the Republicans’ American Health Care Act (AHCA), which, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s recent findings, undermines Medicare, cuts Medicaid by $823 billion, and could leave 23 million people uninsured by 2026. He tried to make that case to U.S. Senator Chris Murphy and U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, who appeared on Wednesday morning to discuss the proposed changes to, and possible repeal of, the Obama Administration’s Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Murphy and DeLauro weren’t buying.

Federchuk’s position appeared to be a minority of one among about a hundred residents of the Bella Vista senior complex on Eastern Street, where Murphy and DeLauro came with experts to explain the issues and the health consequences of the AHCA’s passage to the lives’ of Connecticut seniors. They also made a passionate plea for voices to be raised in opposition.

Murphy and DeLauro, who received enthusiastic whistles and shouts of support as they entered — including “Rosa for President” — brought with them Executive Director Judith Stein of the Center for Medicare Advocacy and Ellen Andrews of the Connecticut Health Policy Project

“This is not a health care bill. This is a tax cut bill for the wealthy,” said Stein, echoing points that Murphy and DeLauro had both made in their opening remarks.

According to a fact sheet Stein distributed to residents, Medicaid currently covers 768,000 people in Connecticut, or about 21 percent of the population. Current Medicaid spending under the ACA fluctuates based on a state’s needs. The proposed AHCA bill caps Medicaid spending no matter the changing needs of the population, such as more seniors requiring coverage, an epidemic, or even a natural disaster.

She said the bill also “gratuitously weakens” Medicare by repealing the small tax on wealthy earners of over $200,000, which is one of the sources of revenue for the benefits and protections under Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

The result of this provision of the AHCA alone is to “destabilize the Medicare Trust Fund by three years,” she added.

Among the results of the current AHCA’s passage, according to Andrews, would be the slashing of Medicaid “to the bone.” That means $1 billion less would flow to Connecticut, pressuring an already deeply budget-challenged Connecticut state government to fill the hole. People over 60 could see a rise in insurance premiums of 50 percent, “if you can [even] get it,” she said.

Addressing Federchuk’s concern of a health care system with waste in it, she added: “I agree with the Republicans that health care is expensive. But this bill doesn’t address what’s driving costs,” like Medicare not being permitted to negotiate down prices with drug companies, and better chronic care management.

If the Republicans wanted offer real solutions, Stein added, “we have some solutions in Connecticut. We got 32 percent more doctors to take on Medicaid patients and to get people out of the emergency room and paid them [the doctor] to coordinate care. If the feds want to save money, we can tell them how,” she said.

DeLauro called the Republicans’ bill “inhumane” in its elimination of 23 million people from insurance, according to CBO estimates, by 2026. She cited the only significant benefit as a $7 million tax cut to the 400 wealthiest American families.

“That’s the trade-off” for the $800 billion to $900 billion in Medicaid cuts nationwide, she added.

Bella Vista resident Alice Selby, who used to work at Stop and Shop, said that she had been diagnosed just this year with cancer. “Without insurance, I wouldn’t be here today,” she said.

Murphy also used the word “inhumane” to describe the proposed cap to Medicaid spending by state. If the cap had been reached in Connecticut, people like Selby might not have had access to the care she needs.

“It’s called rationing of care. That’s something we should not be engaged with in the United States of America,” DeLauro added.

Murphy expressed quiet outrage that the bill is currently being reconfigured by 13 Republican senators and secretly, “behind closed doors.”

He called it “morally objectionable” that none of those senators is a woman. “It doesn’t seem right since most of the cuts in the [Republican proposed] health care bill affect women,” he added.

He also expressed profound concern that with such a low bar — cutting 23 million people from Medicaid in the House bill — if the Senate comes up with a bill that cuts only, for example, 17 million, “they’ll say it’s improved.”

What should folks in the audience do?

DeLauro called the raised voice of people the indispensable “ingredient.” Murphy called for a nationwide movement to show the Republicans what was truly at stake.

“We can’t promise [we’ll be successful], but we’ll fight,” he said.

As the pols left and the Bella Vista-ists lined up for the pizza lunch that had been provided, Selby said she felt encouraged and confident by what she’d heard.

Federchuk had not changed his position. “I’m in favor of Trump’s budget because we have got to cut. We have to think of the future. Our grandkids have a lot to lose,” he said.

Ward 11 Alder Barbara Constantinople, whose district includes Bella Vista, said that many people in her ward voted for Donald Trump. “I tell them, ‘What a mistake they made,’” she said.

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posted by: Dwightstreeter on May 31, 2017  5:46pm

Do any of our CT elected officials support “Medicare for All” aka universal health care?
If not, why not?
The Affordable Care Act was a real improvement for those w/ pre-existing ailments, but it kept the insurance companies, the “middle man”, needlessly part of our health insurance scheme and was inevitably doomed.
I find it hard to cheer on a flawed plan but Trumpcare is an insult to everyone.
Now we know what it means to be between a rock and a hard place.
It’s time to push for universal health care. It’s inevitable.
And it’s what the majority of people want (but not the oligarchy).

posted by: Noteworthy on May 31, 2017  9:08pm

I hope there is a special place in hell for politicians who prey on the ignorance of voters, hold themselves out to be experts and caring individuals who are fighting for healthcare for all of our families. They are liars. The cuts to medicaid funding are cuts in the GROWTH of medicaid. It is not a real cut. Each year under the Trump budget, funding increases.

Secondly - the healthcare exchanges are collapsing across the nation including here in CT. There is no real market no real choice. Obamacare or ACA is stuffed with the old and the sick. The young and healthy see no value because they see no need and the penalty is far less than the cost of these very expensive plans. There is a very real possibility no healthcare plan will be available for next year’s enrollment. The current plans are seeking rate increases up to 34% - in one year.

One final point: Both Murphy and DeLauro have had seven years to fix Obamacare. The shortcomings have been known almost from its inception. Neither politician has lifted a finger, proposed one fix let alone accomplished anything that would make the ACA sustainable and fair. They have done NOTHING. And accomplished even less - the proof of which is that if they actually cared about anything, they’d be in DC working instead of posing and preening.

posted by: TheMadcap on May 31, 2017  10:10pm

“The cuts to medicaid funding are cuts in the GROWTH of medicaid. It is not a real cut”

I like how you say the word cut but then say its not a real cut. Is this like"the ban isnt a ban”?  But anyways yeah, programs need X amount of growth per year to maintain current services, where do you think the lower funding comes from Noteworthy? Trump’s magical bargaining skills? Its comes from massive cuts to eligibility to the program

posted by: LookOut on May 31, 2017  10:31pm

Well said @noteworthy .  Affordable healthcare is certainly a problem in our society.  However, the “solution” that DeLauro, Murphy, and co foisted upon us has been a failure from Day 1.  Rates are going through the roof, healthy people won’t join, and insurance companies are bailing out fast because its impossible to participate and break even.  Staying the course is not an option

posted by: eliantonio on June 1, 2017  12:35am

Why, why in the hell don’t our firmly ensconced Democratic congressional humans have the guts to insist on not only blocking the GOP legislation, but make the bold- and corrwct- insistence that we go to a SINGLE PAYER F#&$ING healthcare system?
This get to the core of all that is wrong with the Democrats.  They aren’t breaking any new ground, and they are complacent with the K street donor money calibrating their moral compasses. 
They don’t deserve to keep their offices if they are afraid of change.

posted by: Christopher Schaefer on June 1, 2017  9:32am

“Mark Federchuk…the waste in government…He thought that was the problem…Murphy and DeLauro weren’t buying.”
Of course not. Any mention of cutting or modifying any already-established government entitlement is suicidal for a careerist politician—regardless of whether such a program is economically sustainable in its current form—or even whether its constitutional. (Libertarians long have called for abolishing Social Security, because, strictly speaking, it’s not authorized by the US Constitution. Not surprisingly, that party has never won a seat in Congress.) 
DeLauro: “rationing of care. That’s something we should not be engaged with in the United States of America”. 
Yet the reality is that once the Federal government becomes involved in healthcare, rationing of care is inevitable. For example, in Great Britain the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence assesses the cost of a treatment in terms of a cost-utility analysis which takes account the amount & quality of extended life it hopes a patient gains. The current ceiling is £30,000. Local authorities are free to set eligibility thresholds for long-term care. Costs in the National Health Service (NHS) are constrained by a national budget that cannot be exceeded, rather than through patient cost-sharing or direct constraints on supply. Despite such constraints, the NHS net deficit for the 2015/16 financial year was £1.851 Billion.
Stein: “we have some solutions in Connecticut…If the feds want to save money, we can tell them how”.
So this brings up that rather uncomfortable, long-ignored 10th Amendment to the Constitution: “The powers not delegated to the United States BY THE Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved TO THE States respectively, or to the people.” (emphasis mine)
Unfortunately DeLauro’s vote-pandering serves as a perpetual reminder of a Constitutional Amendment that is lacking—but long-overdue: Term Limits for members of Congress.

posted by: OhHum on June 1, 2017  10:15am

The single payer system would necessitate building a mega bureaucratic government agency or allowing a large Insurer like Aetna to handle the billing, records,reviews, etc. The Gov’t has proven to be a very poor provider with Medicare as it’s going broke like Social Security, how can we trust Gov’t to handle all of the health care Insurance for 300M. They can’t handle the VA hospitals. I contend that the corruption and incompetency in Gov’t would need to be corrected before any thought of single payer is addressed. Government is not the answer for everything. The Gov’t solution for most things is to throw money at the problem. If you don’t have any money you don’t really care and if you have a lot of money it doesn’t really hurt to give 10% more. If you’re somewhere in the middle you’re just pushed more towards the bottom. For the vast majority of people health care will never be free, and unfortunately for those that receive free health care it will never be as good as the individuals who will pay more for supplemental care.
Of the 23M that will not have healthcare Insurance under Trumpcare the majority will not have it because they can choose not to have it. The mandate to have Insurance has been removed under his plan. People will make that decision for themselves. If you are insured now and choose to use the money for something else so be it.

posted by: RobotShlomo on June 1, 2017  10:35am

“...Medicare as it’s going broke with Social Security”.

RUBBISH!! Medicare is NOT going broke. In fact it will remain solvent for through 2028.

That is the outright falsehood being perpetuated by the likes of Paul Ryan who has been actively attempting to DESTROY Medicare, because he and the small government types who are on the payroll of the Koch brothers, cling to this idea of “small government”, as if it’s still 1790, all so they can PUNCH DOWN at the poor. The one branch of government that actually has the most waste is… anybody??? Andybody?? I can wait….


THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE!  There is more bureaucratic waste in the DOD than any other branch in Washington, yet nobody wants to reform that because the military is one of the few sacred cows in government that conservatives actually believe in.

The only system for health care that can work better than the ACA is a single payer medicare for all system. The “free market” will not be able to cover everyone. The statistics are out there. Single payer systems have better outcomes, lower costs, and more satisfaction rates.

posted by: OhHum on June 1, 2017  11:32am

“RUBBISH” - OhHum!

The Medicare trustees feel differently. The CBPP progressive think tank in saying that Medicare will remain solvent through 2028, they neglected to say the the Gov’t would have to support it with 300 billion of our tax dollars. As I said before the Gov’t solves problems by throwing money at it. That’s the bureaucratic way.

posted by: LookOut on June 1, 2017  11:40am

RobotShlomo - are you serious?  Is it possible with a straight face to say something is not going broke followed immediately by the fact that it will run out of money in 10 years?  This is not some 75 year projection that no adults will live to see.  10 years will go by in the blink of an eye. 

I’m really not very excited about a deal where after paying into Medicare for my whole life, it ceases to be able to pay out when I hit the age where I need it.

posted by: RobotShlomo on June 1, 2017  11:55am

And the “conservative / libertarian”  way to solve problems is to undermine something by actively sabotaging it, and then when it fails to say “we told you it doesn’t work”, and then to get rid of it all to justify their Ayn Randian philosophy of “limited government”. Imagine if you had a car, and then you purposely ran it with no oil, and then when the engine finally did seize you said “I told you it was going to break down, now isn’t it much better we don’t have any car at all?”. Here’s a better idea; let’s FIX PROBLEMS, instead of making them go away. We put men on the moon, split the atom, built interstate highways, invented bacon fried bacon. Surely we can figure this out. This whole idea of “oh, it’s too hard… FREEDOM!!” is completely and utterly asinine. Unlike some, I want my government to WORK BETTER, not go away completely. 

This idea that many have now that if you’re riding a motorcycle, crash on the side of the road, and then you bleed to death because you don’t have health coverage because “freedom”, is not only misguided, it’s self defeating and idiotic.

posted by: RobotShlomo on June 1, 2017  12:05pm

So you’re saying that Nobel Prize winning Robert Reich doesn’t know what he’s talking about? The excuse of “Medicare is going broke” is a conservative talking point, that people like Paul Ryan use to PRIVATIZE the system with vouchers, or eliminate it outright.

Paul Ryan is using what is called “the big lie”. He is repeating the claim of Medicare is going broke until it BECOMES “true”. The claim of “Medicare is going broke” is disingenuous. There are some problems with Medicare, one is that baby boomers are aging, and costs are rising. Expanding Medicare to EVERYONE will increase bargaining power. The 2028 mark gives us time to FIX Medicare, and one of those ways is to expand it to everyone, and not to make it go away completely.

Throwing up our hands and saying “oh, it can’t be fixed” is not an option. It’s a heavy lift, so let’s lift heavy.

posted by: TheMadcap on June 1, 2017  11:09pm

“say the the Gov’t would have to support it with 300 billion of our tax dollars.”

You say this like Medicare is currently funded by freedom and bald eagle tears and not taxes. Medicare doesnt “go broke”, it has a funding shortfall it either makes up through reduced services or higher premiums(taxes) just like a private insurer does.

posted by: OhHum on June 2, 2017  9:09am

Madcap -
87% of Medicare Part A is paid for out of the paychecks of the working people in the U.S.A. When the Gov’t has a shortfall of 300 billion it comes out of the working Americans paycheck. But it is interesting that when the Gov’t doesn’t have the money to pay for something it’s a shortfall. When a working family doesn’t have money to pay it’s bills it’s bankrupt. You see we don’t get to ask our employer for more money to pay debt we have incurred. The 300 billion “shortfall” will not be made right by “freedom and bald eagle tears” but by working families where the “taxes” come from.