UPDATE May 5, 2017 12:50 a.m.:
In a response that came hours after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act (H.R. 1628), Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, called on the Senate to strip out "harmful" provisions of the bill when the chamber takes it up for consideration or else to essentially start over on Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare.
UPDATE May 4, 2017 2:37 p.m:
AP reports: Relieved Republicans have pushed their prized health care bill through the House. The mostly party-line 217-213 vote advances a bill that addresses their longtime pledge to erase the 2010 Obama health care law.
Thursday’s vote sends the measure to the Senate. Many senators consider the House bill too harsh and it’s expected to undergo substantial changes.
Carol Keehan, D.C., president and chief executive officer of the Catholic Health Association of the United States, is standing by her previous criticism of the "repeal and replace" package.
In a statement issued on May 4, she said, “This bill will hurt millions of working Americans very seriously and it has only been made worse with amendments."
The House measure collapsed in March due to opposition by conservative and moderate GOP lawmakers. House leaders abandoned another attempt to pass the bill last week after support was lacking.
Leaders finally rounded up enough support after adding money aimed at helping seriously ill patients afford their medical costs.
Democrats said the bill would kick millions off coverage. They predicted Republicans would pay the price in next year’s elections.
UPDATE May 4, 2017 11:50 a.m:
Despite 11th hour GOP amendments intended to make the latest iteration of the American Health Care Act (A.H.C.A.) palatable to Republican moderates queasy about cutting off people with pre-existing conditions from health insurance, Carol Keehan, D.C., president and chief executive officer of the Catholic Health Association of the United States, is standing by her previous criticism of the "repeal and replace" package.
In a statement issued on May 4, she said, “This bill will hurt millions of working Americans very seriously and it has only been made worse with amendments.
"We urge members of the House to stand for the health and safety of the people they represent and vote no on this plan to take billions out of health care for working Americans and the elderly and give it in tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans.”
Third time is not the charm for Carol Keehan, D.C., president and chief executive officer of the Catholic Health Association of the United States. She finds even less to like in the latest health care proposals from House Republicans. They are making a last-ditch effort to “reform and repeal” the Affordable Care Act before the clock runs out on the Trump administration’s first 100 days on Saturday, April 29.
A C.H.A. statement released on April 26 notes a Congressional Budget Office analysis that indicates the Republicans’ Obamacare replacement package would mean that “14 million people who had just gotten health insurance would lose it, and approximately 10 million more would lose their coverage in later years.”
The statement continues: “In addition, the legislation drastically changes and cuts $880 billion from the Medicaid program, leading to reduced coverage and affordability for millions of our nation’s most vulnerable populations.”
“The recent amendments to the bill, intended to make it more palatable to those who did not support it initially, are even more disastrous for people who have just gotten health care.”
Sister Keehan adds, “The recent amendments to the bill, intended to make it more palatable to those who did not support it initially, are even more disastrous for people who have just gotten health care.” Sister Keehan also objects to the manner in which these late amendments have been hammered out among House Republicans. “We must point out that this bill has been crafted largely behind closed doors,” she says, “with almost no input from providers of health care.”
According to Sister Keehan, the latest proposals would further harm health care delivery in the United States, undermining the A.C.A.’s essential benefits requirements and protections for people with pre-existing conditions. The additions are intended to draw more votes from the G.O.P.’s conservative Freedom Caucus, but the measures would once again allow insurers to set annual and lifetime caps on the care they cover, a return to form that Sister Keehan charges “would seriously undermine health security and leave many individuals with substandard protection.”
“Even the proposed state high-risk pools would be an inadequate and underfunded solution to a problem that need not exist in the first place,” Sister Keehan says.
“It is critically important to look at this bill for what it is. It is not in any way a health care bill,” she charges. “Rather, it is legislation whose aim is to take significant funding allocated by Congress for health care for very low-income people and use that money for tax cuts for some of our wealthiest citizens. This is contrary to the spirit of who we are as a nation, a giant step backward that should be resisted.”
Sister Keehan was joined today in criticizing the new proposals by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
As the U.S. House of Representatives appears poised to vote on the American Health Care Act (HB 1628), Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, stressed that remaining flaws in the bill will harm poor and vulnerable people and called on members to insist upon changes.
"It is deeply disappointing to many Americans that, in modifying the American Health Care Act to again attempt a vote, proponents of the bill left in place its serious flaws, including unacceptable modifications to Medicaid that will endanger coverage and affordability for millions of people, according to reports," said Bishop Dewane. "Sadly, some of the recently proposed amendments—especially those designed to give states flexibility—lack apparent safeguards to ensure quality of care. These additions could severely impact many people with pre-existing conditions while risking for others the loss of access to various essential coverages."
Ironically, even as House Republicans continue a last minute surge against Obamacare, a number of red and purple state—Kansas, Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina and Maine—that had rejected the expansion as a potential budget buster are having second thoughts, perceiving Medicaid expansion as a social and economic boon to neighboring states that have embraced it. Kaiser Health News reports that 31 states plus the District of Columbia have already accepted the expansion, which provided federal funding to broaden eligibility to include most low-income adults with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
In a recent analysis, researchers from the National Association of State Budget Officers concluded that when states expanded eligibility they did see larger health care expenditures — but those costs were covered with federal funding, according to K.H.N. That means that budget gaps did not materialize and expansion states did not have to skimp on other state-level policy priorities. (States will have to begin paying 10 percent of Medicaid expansion costs in 2020.) K.H.N. reports it also meant states that accepted Medicaid expansion had new resources at their disposal to confront the nation’s raging opioid epidemic.
“This is a potential big benefit, not only to people who get coverage, but to state economies,” Benjamin Sommers, an associate professor of health policy and economics at Harvard University’s public health school, told K.H.N.
This report was updated at 3:58 p.m. on April 27.