Senate Health Bill Would Slash Medicaid, Taking Health Care from Millions of Low-Income People

This statement from the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) can be attributed to CLASP Executive Director Olivia Golden.

Washington, D.C.—Today, Senate Republicans released their health reform bill. The so-called Better Care Bill—which would actually make care worse—would reverse the progress made under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It would weaken the health care premium tax credits and raise consumers’ costs while reducing their benefits. The core of the bill is deep and permanent cuts to the Medicaid program that will result in millions of people losing coverage and billions of dollars in tax cuts that will primarily benefit corporations and wealthy individuals.

It would end Medicaid as we know it—a program that has provided affordable health care to low-income children, parentsyoung adults, seniors and individuals with disabilities since 1965. Medicaid is a critical support for helping people find and keep a job. It is also the largest source of financial support for opioid treatment and other key mental health and substance abuse services. While a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score is not yet available, the Senate cuts to Medicaid are even deeper than those in the House bill, which the CBO projected would cause 14 million Americans to lose Medicaid coverage by 2026 and cut federal funding by $834 billion over the next 10 years.  The Senate bill would be even more devastating in the long run after the per capita cap on federal funding deepens the Medicaid cuts starting in 2025.

In addition to the devastating effects on low-income people, these deep cuts to Medicaid would be particularly damaging for state budgets. A bipartisan group of governors has recently written Congress advocating for the importance of preserving the Medicaid federal-state partnership, highlighting that the Congressional proposal “calls into question coverage for the vulnerable and fails to provide the necessary resources to ensure that no one is left out, while shifting significant costs to the states.”

If this bill were enacted, every other function of state government would be at risk. Historically, when states have faced budget restrictions, state funding for education has been significantly reduced. The proposed cuts to Medicaid would deeply impact state budgets, and state policymakers are very likely to respond by reducing funding for public colleges and universities. This would deeply harm millions of students as they pursue a pathway toward economic mobility, and ultimately would be detrimental to our nation’s future.  

As the House did before it, the Senate leadership plans to jam this bill through just days after this bill text was made public, with no hearings, no analysis, and no opportunity for the public to understand these critical decisions that will affect every individual. Congressional Republicans are doing this because they know their bill is deeply unpopular, with every major health care organization standing in opposition. This bill is a major step back from the ACA and will leave millions of people, including low-income people, worse off than they are today.

CLASP condemns the Senate bill and urges an immediate halt to any further consideration of the bill. Senators may bring forth amendments that are supposed to improve the bill so that they can claim political credit. But this bill cannot be repaired. The test for this bill should not be whether the final bill is better than what has been released today, or how it compares to the House bill, but how it compares to current law.  Nearly 13 million fewer non-elderly people in the U.S. are uninsured now than in 2013.  Congress should reject any bill that takes us in the wrong direction. Now is the time to call on Senators to reject this cruel bill and the cynical process that has brought us to this point.