Led by Kentucky’s own Sen. Mitch McConnell, a Republican health care plan is scheduled go to the Senate floor without hearings, no expert testimony and — worse — little time for the public to speak up. It will affect one-sixth of the American economy and millions of people.
Why the fast track? Maybe it’s the only way to pass a bill that’s just as “mean” as the House bill — the president’s own description — devastating not just new coverage under the Affordable Care Act, but Medicaid.
That means more than $800 billion in cuts to Medicaid and a new funding scheme that will make states the bad guys when it comes to implementing them. It means phase-out of the Medicaid expansion that brought new coverage and care to 470,000 Kentuckians. This will hit not just the working poor but seniors, people with disabilities and kids.
Once new caps go on Medicaid spending, it’s not flexibility for states, it’s cuts. You can’t save billions without cutting people off coverage or scaling back services or cutting payments to providers — or, more likely, all three.
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New Medicaid coverage has been a game changer for Kentucky. People are going to the doctor more, hospitals can better meet their bottom lines, jobs are created and there’s help for substance abusers.
But we could be set back if the Senate acts quickly to pass another mean bill.
Richard J. Seckel
Director, Kentucky Equal Justice Center