Nursing home residents in Portland told Oregon’s two Democratic senators Friday that they would be devastated by the health care cuts proposed in the Republicans' latest bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
The Congressional Budget Office has yet to release an analysis of the Graham-Cassidy bill and isn’t likely to before the bill is voted on next week. But several health organizations have studied it and all show Oregon would be one of the states to suffer most.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., told residents of the Laurelhurst Village Assisted Living Center, that the bill would cost Oregonians about $2,500 per person, per year. “More than any other state,” he said. “We’ve got to deliver a knock-out punch next week to this bill that would hurt Oregonians so much.”
A round of applause erupted when Wyden informed residents that Republican Sen. John McCain had just announced he could not in good conscience vote for the bill.
The legislation is likely to get just one hearing, on Monday, in the Senate Finance committee. Wyden is the ranking Democrat in that committee and he said Republicans are trying to push it through using raw political power.
Health care accounts for one-sixth of the American economy. That’s $3 trillion in annual spending, affecting about 300 million Americans.
In Oregon for example, the 400,000 people who secured health coverage under Medicaid expansion, would likely lose it again in 2020, when expansion would come to an end under Graham-Cassidy.
Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., told residents of the assisted living home that the bill would effectively kill the health care exchanges.
“It’s hard to imagine any insurance company offering its wares on that exchange when there will only be primarily sick people, who need a lot of care and therefore they have to set the policies so high that even more people won’t sign up and therefore you have a process called a death spiral,” he said.
Over the last six months, three separate bills to stop the ACA have made their way through Congress and failed.
“I cannot believe we’re having to have this fight again,” Merkley added.
Merkley was encouraged that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., would not vote for the bill. But he said, a 50-50 vote in the Senate would be broken by Vice President Mike Pence.
He’s worried Republicans Susan Collins of Maine, Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska could be encouraged to vote for the bill if sweeteners are added to benefit their prospective states.
“So even with McCain, it's still very touch and go. So we’ve got to get not just to 49 [votes], but to 51,” Merkley said.
Oregon doesn’t have any Republicans in the Senate. But Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., has so far remained quiet on the bill.