Sacrificing children for tax cuts, Senate GOP leaders unveil secret health care bill

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by Félix Pérez; image courtesy of Lynda Glddens

After weeks of working in complete secrecy, Senate GOP leaders this morning publicly released their plan to dismantle and replace the Affordable Care Act. Much like the House version of the bill, dubbed TrumpCare, and which will result in 23 million people losing their health insurance, the Senate bill makes deep cuts to Medicaid, imperiling the health care of up to 16.5 million children who rely on the federal-state program.

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The rushed bill is expected to come up for a vote as early as next week to avoid pointed questions from voters during Congress’ Fourth of July recess. The 142-page bill, written without a single public hearing or any public input, would provide hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts to the wealthy in order to pay for the cuts to Medicaid. The bill drops many of the benefits required by the Affordable Care Act, such as maternity care, emergency services and mental health treatment.

According to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, the number of uninsured children could rise by up to 16.5 million.

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Medicaid provides health coverage for 36 million children and $4 billion per year to schools for special needs students. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Medicaid reimburses schools for mental health care, vision and hearing screenings, diabetes and asthma management, wheelchairs, hearing aids, and more. Capping federal support for Medicaid will shift costs to the states, jeopardizing services essential for students to learn and thrive, especially those with disabilities.

With the hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to Medicaid expected (the GOP House version of the bill, also called TrumpCare, cut the program by $834 billion), public schools will have to reduce the number of nurses, social workers, speech therapists, counselors, psychologists and physical therapists. For many children, schools are the primary point of entry to receiving needed health, social services and medical devices.

The most far-reaching change in TrumpCare is a radical restructuring of Medicaid, the largest government-run health program with more than 70 million beneficiaries, half of whom are children. The House’s American Health Care Act has been described as “Robin Hood in reverse” because it takes from the most vulnerable — children, the poor, the sick and the elderly — to give the wealthy $664 billion in tax cuts.

The Kaiser Family Foundation’s report concludes:

Reductions in children’s coverage would result in fewer children accessing needed care, including preventive services such as well child visits and immunizations. Research also suggests that reductions in children’s coverage could have broader long-term negative effects on their health, education, and financial success as adults.

Senate Republicans need just 50 votes to pass their bill, but mounting public distrust, as well as misgivings by some Republicans, makes it uncertain whether they can stitch together the necessary votes.

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