Health care providers, attorneys and North Carolina residents continue to go through the more than 140 pages of the Senate’s health care bill draft, which was released Thursday morning. While some are still trying to understand the many parts, concerns began developing early on regarding Medicaid.
Jackie Kiger, of Pisgah Legal Services, said the draft as it stands would put lives at risk. Her agency helps veterans, the elderly and people with disabilities get coverage.
She has many concerns with the proposed cuts to mental health treatment and emergency services, but the Medicaid weighs the highest. According to her interpretation, states will receive Medicaid funding as block grants over time. She says about 2 million people in the state rely on it.
“The burden of this is going to fall on the state of North Carolina,” said Kiger. “Our state government and our state leaders are going to have to make very hard choices between whether or not they’re going to carry that financial burden, if the caps are no longer able to cover the cost of services, or they will be looking and very difficult choices.
The Senate’s draft also would cut taxes for the rich and give states the final say on determining essential health care.
“The bill does not protect our healthcare. It will mean high premiums and less services, so people will be paying more for less, potentially,” said Kiger. “Older adults, and particularly older adults who are lower income, will be hurt by this bill.”
Sen, Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) were relieved to see certain mandates passed through Obamacare being eliminated.
In a statement, Tillis said many North Carolinian’s lives have been “upended by Obamacare.” Part of that statement reads: “As I’ve said repeatedly, any replacement plan must be a net improvement over Obamacare, and I look forward to carefully reviewing the draft legislation over the next several days.”
WCU politics professor Chris Cooper said many people are still working through the 143 pages and the bill has a long way to go before it can even come up for a vote. Four conservative Republican senators have already said they do not support it.
“We’re assuming all the Democrats are going to vote against this,” said Cooper. “The question is, how many Republicans also go against it? This is a bill, and bills can be changed. Bills go through markup, they have to go to the other House and with the four folks that don’t support it, right now it will not become a law as it’s currently written.”
While understanding the draft is still a work in progress, Burr was also encouraged by some parts. His statement reads:
“This draft legislation outlines a number of initiatives that are good for North Carolina. While not perfect, the bill does provide the funding we need to support our most vulnerable North Carolinians. I’m encouraged that it keeps the law protecting people with pre-existing conditions. The legislation also reverses $31 billion in cuts made to Medicaid by Obamacare, extends millions of dollars in funding to our community health centers, and provides $2 billion to the fight against the opioid epidemic.”
Meantime, Kiger and other opponents say funding for the opioid epidemic does not go far enough.
“We know that the opioid epidemic is a crisis that our community is talking about ways to respond. Medicaid is one of the most effective evidence based methods of responding to and treating this crisis.”
Locally, Some Concerns Over Senate’s Healthcare Bill Draft