U.S. Senate Republicans released a 142-page draft of a bill to repeal Obamacare that would end penalties for people who don't buy insurance, protect people with pre-existing conditions and restructure Medicaid funding.
Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, both Tennessee Republicans, were among those who commented on the legislation Thursday.
Corker said he's going to review the bill and seek input from stakeholders, and Alexander said Tennesseans will benefit from the proposed legislation.
State Democrats blasted the bill, calling it "devastating" for Tennesseans.
Former President Barack Obama also weighed in via Facebook and said the bill has been rushed without public hearings.
Comments from Corker
Corker said that coverage under the Affordable Care Act—for which 12.2 million people enrolled in 2017—is costly and limiting.
"Congress has a responsibility to resolve these issues and stabilize the individual insurance market, and over the next several days, I will take time to fully review the legislative text and seek input from a wide range of stakeholders across our state," he said in a prepared statement. "I will make a final decision based on whether this legislation, on the whole, is better than what is in place today."
Tennesseans who want to read the discussion draft and provide input can do so at corker.senate.gov, Corker also said.
Comments from Alexander
Alexander outlined several benefits of the proposed bill. He said it provides more money for hospitals that serve low-income Tennesseans without insurance, provides funding for opioid abuse and provides more options for area residents to buy insurance.
In some areas of Tennessee, residents have been in danger of having no insurers selling individual health plans in 2018.
Alexander said that the new legislation would provide coverage to 162,000 Tennesseans who make less than $12,000 a year and don't get help via Obamacare.
But, according to Healthcare.gov, Tennesseans who make between $11,880 and $29,700 do have access to Obamacare coverage.
Anyone who makes below $11,880 can't qualify for Obamacare coverage because Tennessee didn't expand Medicaid. But those people aren't penalized for not having coverage.
Countless reports have said that the new bill would mean cuts for Medicaid, which is public assistance for low-income Americans. (Medicare is assistance for senior citizens.)
But Alexander said that the proposed legislation includes increases for Medicaid.
The new bill slows Medicaid expansion, allowing it to grow at the rate of inflation as opposed to open-ended funding.
Limiting the open-ended federal funding would mean long-term cuts and more predictability on costs. The restructuring means increased yearly funding but cuts over the long term.
Alexander said that the new bill funds Medicaid properly but keeps it within a reasonable budget.
Medicaid is eating up money that otherwise would be spent on education, and so what we’re trying to do is fund Medicaid properly, but keep it on some reasonable budget, and it seems to us that a reasonable budget is to let Medicaid funding from the federal government—that’s 65 percent of Tennessee’s funding—increase each year at the rate of inflation. Most workers in Tennessee would be happy with a pay raise that increased each year at the rate of inflation. We think the government ought to live by the same rules.
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Alexander also said he's going to continue to review the draft and wait to hear from the Congressional Budget Office about how much the bill's provisions would cost. He said his focus is on how the legislation would affect Tennessee residents.
Tennessee Democratic Party comments
Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini said the new bill would have a devastating effect on state residents and urged Corker and Alexander to vote against the bill.
She also said:
The newest version of Trumpcare is devastating for Tennesseans. This plan guts prenatal coverage for mothers-to-be, which we know is vital for a new baby’s health. It cuts funding for opioid treatment at a time when record numbers of Tennesseans are dying from overdoses. It attacks our seniors by making them pay a crushing "age tax" that will increase their premiums to five times higher than what everyone else is paying. And if this attack on our seniors wasn’t enough, it also cuts Medicaid and puts at risk two-thirds of those living in nursing homes.
Comments from Obama
Obama said the bill would hurt people who are sick, old or want to start a family.
"It would raise costs, reduce coverage, roll back protections and ruin Medicaid as we know it," he said. "That’s not my opinion, but rather the conclusion of all objective analyses, from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which found that 23 million Americans would lose insurance, to America’s doctors, nurses and hospitals on the front lines of our health care system."