If you have been somewhat confused about what the U.S. Senate is doing on health care, you aren’t alone. Senators are confused too. They don’t even know what bill they will be voting on – and the vote is supposed to tomorrow! Last week, Senator John Cornyn of Texas said that knowing what the Senate Republican health care bill is before the voting process is a “luxury we don’t have.”
Remember that the Senate’s deadlines are self-imposed. Of course, Senate leaders could clarify their plans and then, once a bill is finalized, give the Senate and the public time to read it before the vote. Health care affects every American. It’s not a luxury to understand in advance how a bill would alter our access to health care and one-sixth of the U.S. economy; that’s just basic, prudent policymaking.
The constant tweaking of bills and uncertainty about the real plan seems to be just the latest feature of the Senate’s terrible process for trying to ram through health care changes that are deeply unpopular with the public. The changes have been roundly criticized by doctors, hospitals, insurers, patient groups, AARP and more.
In the course of two days recently, we had two different Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scores released on two different Senate health bill versions. We’ve summarized each prior CBO analysis on this blog. Our partners at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, DC have done the analysis on the latest bill draft and highlighted a scary new bill feature. Deductibles will rise to $13,000 a year, including for people with very low incomes, which is a big reason why the Senate bill does NOT help Texans in the Coverage Gap.
Here’s the key takeaway: It doesn’t matter which bill the Senate finally takes up; all of the Senate bill options are terrible, and they cannot be fixed. They will all cause at least 22 million people – and maybe up to 32 million people — to lose insurance. They all have deep cuts for Medicaid. And they all cause premiums and deductibles to rise. They will all harm Texans, especially low- and moderate-income Texans, and decrease access to health care.
The Senate needs to move on from its bewildering plan to ram through a bad bill that will hurt people and instead move quickly to working on a broadly-supported approach to stabilize the individual insurance market and strengthen the Affordable Care Act.