A crowd of about 100 people rallied at the office of Colorado U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner Friday in Denver, urging him to vote "no" on the Republican health bill.
Joan Hemm was among those who said the bill, made public on Thursday, will strip healthcare from hundreds of thousand of Coloradans, and millions of Americans.
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"This is not right. I don't know what on Earth they think they are doing to our country," said Hemm, who cares for her disabled husband. She lost her job and has health insurance through the Affordable Care Act -- Obamacare -- thanks to the program's tax credits. But she worries that repeal of the ACA will leave her without insurance.
"Why on earth would we take health care, that we finally have established for all Americans, and break it up to give tax breaks to the rich?" Hemm said. "Are we to die in the streets?"
As NPR has reported, here are the major parts of the Senate bill (the House previously passed a similar version):
- People under 26: Can get insurance through a parent’s plan or buy independently.
- Adults under 65: The oldest people under 65 would pay five times more than younger people. Subsidies to help pay for insurance would end at incomes of 350 percent of poverty level, with adults 59-64 paying up to 16.2 percent of income. Medicaid would be cut starting in 2021.
- Low-income nursing home residents: Skilled nursing care covered by Medicare up to 100 days. Medicaid coverage for long-term care could be cut as federal payments to states decline.
- People with pre-existing medical conditions: Insurance companies would be required to accept all applicants regardless of health status. But the draft bill would let states ask permission to reduce required coverage, also called “essential health benefits,” which would give insurers some discretion over what they offer in their plans, and possibly change what they can charge consumers.
- People who go to Planned Parenthood: A one-year block will be placed on federal reimbursements for care provided by Planned Parenthood.
- People with disabilities: Services covered by Medicaid could be cut as federal funding to states declines over time. The cuts would be larger than those in the House bill.
- People who use mental health services: Medicaid would not be required to cover mental health after 2019. For other types of insurance, requirements could change in states that request a waiver.
- Working poor on Medicaid: Federal funding for Medicaid expansion phases out between 2021 and 2023. In addition, eight states would have a trigger clause — if the federal matching rate declines below the ACA-promised rates, the expansion goes away immediately. That would affect Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Washington. Further reductions would start in 2025.
- The wealthy: Similar to the House bill; would repeal ACA taxes [worth about $592 billion] on corporations and the wealthy that pay for insurance subsidies.
Maria Guerrero, a single mother and Lyft driver from Aurora, was also at the demonstration. She says her 3-year-old daughter got care through with Medicaid after suffering pneumonia and an intestinal tumor.
"It gets to me, because I can't imagine somebody would choose to pass a bill that's going to cut many people off."
Rachel Graves, a lawyer who has struggled with headaches so severe she couldn't work out got insurance through the Medicaid expansion, said the GOP bill rolls that benefit back and she's not sure what she'll do without it.
"It's kind of unthinkable. I think I'll be luckier than a lot of people," she said. "It's gonna be like a race against the clock of can I get well in time to have a job, before I can no longer get insurance."
Gardner is one of 13 senators who gave input on the bill behind closed doors -- and the only one whose state didn't go for President Trump. But he was quoted widely Thursday seeing that he hadn't seen the bill's final language until it was made public Thursday.
"I am beginning to carefully review it as we continue to look at ways to rescue Colorado from the continued negative impacts of the Affordable Care Act on our healthcare system," he said. "This deserves serious debate, not knee-jerk reaction.”
Colorado's other U.S. Senator, Democrat Michael Bennet, called the bill "just as bad as—if not worse" than the House bill. "Coloradans deserve full and open debate to improve health care system," he said.