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Here’s How Many People Could Lose Healthcare To Give Billionaires a Tax Break

According to a stunning estimate from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the GOP “health care bill” gives America’s 400 wealthiest households alone a $33 billion tax break – equivalent to the cost of Medicaid for 725,800 low-income Americans.

Yesterday, following protests across the country, Senate Republicans were forced to delay a vote on the GOP health care bill (also known as the “Better Care Reconciliation Act,” or BCRA). According to the nonpartisan number-crunchers at the Congressional Budget Office, 22 million people would lose healthcare coverage under the Senate GOP bill – a loss largely driven by slashing and burning Medicaid, the social health insurance program which covers tens of millions of poor or disabled Americans who otherwise would not be able to afford health care. Obamacare expanded Medicaid eligibility to all adults who earn up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level (in the 30-odd states that agreed  to participate).

The Senate’s bill would cut $772 billion from Medicaid by 2026 and completely end the Medicaid expansion – throwing 15 million people off Medicaid coverage. Apparently, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and co. think that’s a price worth paying so billionaires and millionaires can get a tax break they don’t need.

This chart breaks it down pretty starkly: the GOP “health care” bill’s tax cuts for America’s 400 highest-income households are approximately equal to the cost of Medicaid expansion for nearly three quarters of a million people – the entire Medicaid expansion population of Alaska, Arkansas, West Virginia, and Nevada.

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As Joe Biden used to say, “Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget, I’ll tell you what you value.” Congressional Republicans couldn’t be making their values more clear. The cuts run even deeper than Medicaid expansion – there would be massive reductions in federal spending across the program.

Medicaid enrollees don’t have lobbyists in Washington; they don’t attend glitzy $5,000-a-plate fundraisers. Medicaid enrollees are single moms working two part-time jobs that won’t offer health benefits and pregnant women who wouldn’t get maternity or postnatal care without the program (Medicaid covers nearly half of U.S. births). Medicaid enrollees make up 30% of adults with disabilities, and 60% of children with disabilities; without it, many would lose access to health care and the support that enable them to live in their communities, rather than in institutions that deny disabled people independence and dignity. Medicaid recipients make up 76% of poor kids (three in four!) whose working-class families can’t make ends meet without it.

This phenomenally cruel bill would condemn Medicaid enrollees kids, people with disabilities, the working-class to sickness, bankruptcy, even death in order to give billionaires a tax cut they don’t need. If that’s not class warfare, I don’t know what is.

Here are some other things to know about the GOP bill:

  • It would bring back lifetime limits – a practice where insurers capped how much they would pay for an individual’s medical bills over their lifetime. Before Obamacare, people with serious chronic illnesses would bump up against the cap and find themselves out in the cold, which is why the ACA banned the practice. Read about Timmy Morrison, a six-year-old who owes his life to the ban on lifetime limits. Timmy went to Congress to lobby against ACA repeal last week. We live in a world where six-year-olds have to beg their Senators not to let them die.
  • It shreds up the Essential Health Benefits requirement – in plain English, this means that insurers (in some states) would be allowed to drop maternity, mental health, birth control and prescription drug coverage, among other things. We laid out why that’s so dangerous for women last month.
  • The Senate bill would eliminate Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood for (at least) one year, including reimbursement for preventative care, contraception, and cancer screenings. How long are we going to have to keep fighting this shit? As a reminder, more than half of Planned Parenthood’s 650 health clinics are in medically underserved areas; women can’t do without it.
  • An analysis from Harvard health economists and the Center for American Progress and Harvard health found that the Senate bill could cause tens of thousands of deaths. I never want to hear someone call Republicans pushing this thing “pro-life” again.

The bill was delayed  but it’s not dead. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell still plans to force a vote after the Senate returns from its July 4th recess. This win doesn’t mean we can back down; rather, it means we have time to escalate pressure while our Senators are back in their home states next week.

Here are the Senators who’ll make or break healthcare. Here’s Indivisible’s plan to stop Trumpcare in its tracks. Here’s how you can join disability activists putting their bodies on the line to stop this bill. Here’s what Feministing is going to save the ACA, before it’s too late, and how you can join in.

As Vox’s Jeff Stein points out, the movement against Trump “isn’t worth a damn if it doesn’t rise up against a plan to gut Medicaid for the most vulnerable.” He’s right. Let’s be worth a damn.

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Sejal Singh is a columnist at Feministing, where she writes about educational equity, labor, and reproductive justice. When she's not blogging, Sejal is a Policy and Advocacy Coordinator for Know Your IX, a national campaign to end gender-based violence in schools. She is a frequent speaker on gender violence, LGBTQ rights, and civil rights in education. Her views are her own.

Sejal Singh is a columnist at Feministing, writing about educational equity, labor, and reproductive justice.

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