Local reaction to GOP health care bill: 'Very ugly'

Local reaction to GOP health care bill: 'Very ugly'

CHAMPAIGN — It's "very ugly." It would leave many in Illinois without health coverage, and it stands to end Medicaid as America knows it, according to some of the reactions to the House Republican bill to replace Obamacare.

Should this bill become law, Illinois Health and Hospital spokesman Danny Chun projected, it could mean a return to the days of uninsured people delaying needed medical care and then turning to emergency rooms, where care is most expensive.

"We are extremely concerned on the direction of this legislation," Chun said. "It would cut coverage for hundreds of thousands of people in Illinois and impose a federal cap on federal funding for Medicaid in Illinois."

The Republican House plan would do away with the penalties imposed on people who don't have health insurance, overhaul the Medicaid system, offer tax credits to help buy insurance and keep some of the protections under the Affordable Care Act — among them allowing young adults to remain on their parents' insurance until age 26.

Champaign County Health Care Consumers Executive Director Claudia Lennhoff called the bill a "bait and switch" on the part of Republicans, saying it's not a repeal and replace bill because "there's no replacement whatsoever."

"It's very ugly," she said.

The bill substantially reduces the subsidies that help millions of people pay for health coverage, partly by tying assistance to age instead of income, she said.

It also changes the insurance pricing scheme, allowing insurers to charge older adults five times as much (rather than the currently permitted three times as much) for health coverage as they do younger people, she said.

Rather than an Affordable Care Act replacement, Lennhoff said, the bill "truthfully is a bill for ending Medicaid as we know it, and not just the Medicaid expansion. It would radically restructure it."

Under a new per capita cap, the federal government would cap what it pays states for each person covered under Medicaid, forever obligating states, health care providers and those who can least afford to pay for their care with additional costs, according to Lennhoff.

"If for no other reason, that is the reason this bill needs to be just buried," she said.

Chun said his association is still studying the bill, but some specific concerns are the age-based tax credits that would replace the income-based tax subsidies.

The future of Medicaid is also a big concern. One out of four people in Illinois is covered under Medicaid, he said.

The enhanced federal match for Illinois of 95 percent for new enrollees under Obamacare's Medicaid expansion would come to an end in 2020 and drop back to around 50 percent, which will be a "huge hit" to an already ailing state budget, Chun said.

On top of that, there would be the new per capita cap, he said, and Illinois is already last among states in the U.S. for federal Medicaid reimbursements.

"We're a bigger state than Ohio. We have more people on Medicaid than Ohio, but Ohio gets $4.6 billion more a year in Medicaid because they have a higher matching rate than we do," he said.

More than 40 percent of the state's hospitals already operate on a negative or very thin margin, Chun said. Cutting Medicaid could mean cutting services for these hospitals, "and when you cut services, you cut services for everyone, not just Medicaid patients," he said.

The state hospital association is continuing to urge Congress not to repeal the Affordable Care Act without an adequate and simultaneous replacement plan that continues to ensure meaningful and affordable coverage, Chun said.

Presence Covenant and United Samaritans medical centers and the Carle health system are still reviewing the GOP plan and its potential impact.

"It is, however, important to keep in mind that Illinois is already disadvantaged with Medicaid funding," said Dr. Jared Rogers, president and CEO of both local Presence hospitals. "As it is currently proposed, the House bill would exacerbate an already unfair situation by capping funds for our state, thereby providing fewer resources to care for those most in need."

Dr. James Leonard, Carle president and CEO, said a thorough evaluation is needed.

"Just as the enactment of the Affordable Care Act required affected parties to thoroughly evaluate their role, so will moving toward its replacement," he said. "We will continue to monitor and prepare, knowing that, as a vertically integrated system, Carle and Health Alliance are well-positioned to adjust while maintaining our focus on providing the highest quality care and services to our patients and members."

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CptJustice wrote on March 08, 2017 at 9:03 am
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If this passes, every Republican that votes for it should be held accountable and dismissed in 2018. Thanks to Champaign County Health Care Consumers for looking out for our interests.

CallSaul wrote on March 08, 2017 at 10:03 am

As expected, it's a horrible bill that takes healthcare away from average people, gives tax breaks to the already wealthy and further enriches insurance CEOs and other administrators.

Voters will remember how their representatives vote now and in November 2018, we'll vote accordingly...