Protests Help Defeat Latest GOP Obamacare Repeal Bill

Posted Sept. 27, 2017

MP3 Interview with Chad Bolt, policy manager with the national Indivisible movement, conducted by Scott Harris

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After Senate Republicans’ latest unsuccessful attempt to repeal and replace President Obama’s signature health care reform legislation, the Affordable Care Act, opponents breathed a sigh of relief. The third failed bill to repeal Obamacare, sponsored by GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Louisiana’s Bill Cassidy, would have ended ACA provisions mandating health coverage, insurance premium subsidies, expansion of Medicaid and protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Graham-Cassidy went down to defeat after three Republicans announced their opposition, preventing the Senate from using a time-limited rule to pass a healthcare bill with only a slim majority vote.

Apart from minority Senate Democrats who were united in their opposition, a broad coalition of health providers, insurance companies, and patient and retiree advocacy groups worked to defeat the bill. Although the Congressional Budget Office did not have time to research the full impact of Graham-Cassidy, they did project that $1 trillion would be slashed from Medicaid over the next decade. The non-partisan Brookings Institution calculated that by 2027, 32 million Americans would be without health insurance under the Republican plan.

As opponents of the bill across the country participated in protests and flooded senators' offices with calls urging a No vote, activists with the disability rights group ADAPT, engaged in a civil disobedience action at the only Senate hearing on the bill on Capitol Hill that resulted in 181 arrests. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Chad Bolt, policy manager with the national Indivisible movement that mobilized thousands of their members to defeat Graham-Cassidy. Here, he reflects on the battle just won and continuing fight over the future of the U.S. healthcare system.

CHAD BOLT: Right now under current law, people who are lower income can get subsidies to afford health insurance. Those subsidies would go away. The Graham-Cassidy bill destroyed Medicaid as we know it in a few main ways: First it ends the Medicaid expansion, which you probably remember, after the Affordable Care Act was passed and there was a first Supreme Court case, it became optional for states to expand their Medicaid programs. And what does that mean? It means that more people up to a higher-income threshold could be covered by Medicaid. A lot of states, something like 30 states decided to do that. The Graham-Cassidy bill would end the federal support of the Medicaid expansion and it would transform traditional Medicaid permanently into a capped system.

So right, now under Medicaid, if you're eligible, you can get the care you need. And that's a guarantee. But under the Graham-Cassidy cap system, states would get a certain amount of money per beneficiary and that would be it. So, if the money ran out, but you needed more care, you'd have to find some other way to get the care you need because the money would be out.

So it destroys Medicaid as we know it. It takes away the subsidies to help people afford insurance and it also throws protections with people with pre-existing conditions totally out the window. There were previous iterations of the Trumpcare bill that at least had the pretense of allowing states to seek a waiver to let insurance companies discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions. This bill totally gets rid of the pretense, they're not even pretending any more. Discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions is back on the table.

So those are some of the features like other Trumpcare bills, it defunds Planned Parenthood. This bill would be terrible for women's health, one again because Planned Parenthood is defunded but also because those pre-existing conditions are gone. So if you have had a C-section; if you're a victim of sexual assault; if you've had post-partum depression' your insurance company can once charge you more. That's not allowed under the ACA. Again, those protections would be gone. Those are just some of the terrible highlights. And yet, it has a lot of support on the Republican party.

Almost enough support to push it through because of the seven-year political promise that Republican have made to their campaign donors and to their most extreme elements of their party that they would repeal the ACA.

BETWEEN THE LINES: This health care debate has been roiling for many years now. Obamacare is certainly not the end-all solution. It's got a lot of flaws. It doesn't cover universally people in this country and Bernie Sanders and others – John Conyers – have put forward single-payer and Medicare-for-All as a more comprehensive solution to the United States' health care problems. But, as you look at the need to be proactive and putting forward your own agenda; your own positive agenda for health care in this country, where do you see Indivisible moving?

CHAD BOLT: Sure, it's a good question. And you know what, I'll say right out of the gate. We support Medicare for All. We want people to have quality coverage. We think health care is a basic human right. But, you know we also know there are some hard truths. We are not in agenda-setting power right now. We've got massive constituent power, and we've seen that as we've defeated previous iterations of the Trump care bill. We think we really have the most power in responding right now to what's on the congressional agenda.

The Trump administration is a position to sabotage the ACA even if the legislative attempts to get rid of it fail. They're in a position to sabotage it from the inside. And we've already seen so many different deliberate examples of this. So, our efforts to defend the ACA definitely continue.

BETWEEN THE LINES: I just wanted to end on one last note. How much of a central issue will health care be in the 2018 midterms elections as far as the Indivisible agenda as you guys engage in campaigning in 2018?

CHAD BOLT: Here's how we look at it. In 2018, members of the Senate that voted to end the ACA – we're going to try to end their careers. If they voted to take away the ACA, we're definitely not going to forget it.

For more information, visit Indivisible Guide website at indivisibleguide.com.

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