EDITORIAL: Senate health bill is draconian

York Dispatch
  • The Senate health bill we waited for wasn't a surprise.
  • Though written behind closed doors, it was expected it wouldn't deviate from the House bill.
  • We have elected a Congress so hell-bent on undoing the Obama legacy, it will harm many.

The Senate health bill released late last week slipped out from the cover of darkness — Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey was among a dozen or so Republicans who crafted the legislation behind closed doors — and it was as frightening when it hit the light of day as many had feared.

Amy Kuiken, 34, of Dallas, Pa., holds her sign, as she listens to a a person's story during a town hall meeting regarding health care held on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017, at the United Neighborhood Center in Scranton, Pa. U.S. Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey (R) was invited to speak at the town hall, but did not attend.  ( Butch Comegys / The Times & Tribune via AP)  MANDATORY CREDIt

Draconian. Immoral. Cruel.

Seniors, veterans, those fighting opioid addiction, those with disabilities, low-income earners and children will likely feel additional pain if the GOP plan for health care becomes law. And that pain might be life-threatening for the most vulnerable of our neighbors.

It will help some, though — primarily wealthy Americans and insurance companies.

While the Senate bill would erase the tax penalties for those who don't purchase insurance, it would allow insurers to cover fewer benefits and repeal tax boosts on wealthier people that help finance the statute's expanded coverage.

It also would phase out extra federal money that Pennsylvania and 30 other states receive for Medicaid expansion covering more low earners. With a state budget deficit nearing $3 billion, that means Pennsylvania state taxpayers will see a heavier tax burden, an increasing budget deficit and/or reduced coverage for the elderly, disabled, veterans, families living in poverty and those who are struggling with addiction.

Casey heads to Pennsylvania to hammer Senate health bill

That can't be what York County residents wanted when they endorsed Donald Trump last November by a margin of more than 60,000 votes.

The Senate bill also would put yearly spending caps on Medicaid, which since it began in the 1960s has provided states with unlimited money to cover costs. That’s what Toomey cited as the reason for his likely support of the measure: Putting Medicaid on a more financially sustainable path.

In true Toomey form, he originally said that although he helped write the legislation, he hadn’t decided if he would vote for it. Confounding.

Toomey noncommittal but upbeat about Senate health care bill

Gov. Tom Wolf released a statement calling the Senate bill “crueler” than the House version of the health bill, which passed in May.

“The deeper and more devastating cuts to Medicaid in this plan make it even crueler than the House plan. Some politicians in Washington are completely disconnected from the reality of how cutting Medicaid will damage real Pennsylvania families and communities,” Wolf said.

The measure resembles legislation the House approved last month that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said would mean 23 million additional uninsured people within a decade and that recent polling shows is viewed favorably by only around 1 in 4 Americans.

A far less nonpartisan source, President Donald Trump, called the House bill "mean." He was right. The Senate bill is no better.

Wolf pointed to the state’s most vulnerable population in his statement opposing the Senate bill. “Senior citizens in need of home or nursing care, children with disabilities, and rural hospitals and working families relying on Medicaid will all be left behind,” he wrote. He said the GOP-led Congress is seeking political victory over the well-being of citizens who depend on Medicaid and affordable health care.

Wolf is correct. And the Pennsylvania scenario will be repeated throughout the country, where, even under the rosiest predictions, more than 20 million Americans will no longer be able to afford health care.

York County helped deliver a victory to this administration, as did the state of Pennsylvania. Local and state voters counted on this president and Congress to lift them out of economic insecurity. They might now find that those they counted on are so hellbent on undoing President Barack Obama’s legacy that they will sacrifice the health and welfare of the state’s — and nation’s — most vulnerable to do so.