Friday, June 23, 2017

EDITORIAL >> Replacement hits roadblock

Sens. John Boozman and Tom Cotton remain silent on the newly unveiled health-care bill introduced Thursday in the Senate after much secrecy. Although Cotton helped fashion the controversial bill, he won’t say if he supports it, and neither will Boozman, even if hundreds of thousands of Arkansans will lose their health insurance if the bill passes.

Several Republicans have spoken out against Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plan, some because it doesn’t go far enough in reducing federal spending on health care, while other Republicans are saying the bill will end coverage for millions of Americans.

The proposal remains unpopular, with perhaps just 25 percent of Americans favoring it. While Boozman and Cotton are keeping out of sight, profiles in courage are emerging among Republicans and more are to follow this weekend, putting the future of McConnell’s healthcare bill in doubt.

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) said Friday he will not support the Republican Senate health-care bill without changes, making him the fifth GOP senator to oppose the secretive proposal, which was finally released Thursday.

Heller said millions of people will lose their insurance if Medicaid cuts in the bill are enacted. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office will announce Monday how many working poor will go without insurance, but Heller has good reason to guess it will be in the hundreds of thousands, just like in Arkansas.

But he’s willing to speak out, unlike Boozman and Cotton. “I cannot support a piece of legislation that takes away insurance from tens of millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Nevadans,” Heller said.

Nevada, like Arkansas, expanded Medicaid, which helped 300,0000 Arkies get insurance for the first time. A quarter of a million could lose their coverage if the Senate bill passes. Why aren’t Boozman and Cotton addressing this issue? Dozens of hospitals and clinics will close if the McConnell bill becomes law, which will further hurt our state’s fragile health-care system.

Opponents of the health-care proposal include:

The Association of American Medical Colleges says millions of people will go without health coverage.

The American Medical Association opposes limits on Medicaid spending, raising premiums and reducing benefits.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says cutting Medicaid would hurt children.

America’s Essential Hospitals says the bill will close hospitals and/or reduce services.

AARP is calling on every senator to vote no.

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse says the plan will hurt the fight against opioid addiction.

Catholic hospitals and nursing homes say the Republican health-care bill would have a “devastating impact” on the poor and frail.

The Association of State Medicaid Directors also opposes the Senate bill. They warned this week that “no amount of administrative or regulatory flexibility can compensate for the federal spending reductions that would occur as a result of this bill.”

Gov. Hutchinson, the Legislature, our congressional delegation must speak out before the Senate bill comes up for a vote next week. Arkansas would be among the states hardest hit. We’ve worked too hard to go down that route.