The gigantic lie in Mitch McConnell’s introduction of the Senate’s health care bill

This is not what “strengthening” means.

Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell leaves the chamber after announcing the release of the Republicans’ healthcare bill in Washington, Thursday, June 22, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell leaves the chamber after announcing the release of the Republicans’ healthcare bill in Washington, Thursday, June 22, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

In his speech introducing the Senate’s health care bill that mirrors a similar effort in the House, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) listed many “shared policy objectives” he said his Republican colleagues agreed upon.

Among those: “the need to strengthen Medicaid.”

Unfortunately for those who rely on the landmark government health care program, the Senate’s bill does the exact opposite.

On Thursday morning, the Senate Republican leadership released a “discussion draft” of their version of the House’s bill to roll back Obamacare. Their title for it is the “Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.”

Appearing on the Senate floor shortly after the draft’s text went online, McConnell listed some general Republican policy goals such as eliminating mandates, cutting taxes, and strengthening affordability. He also said: “We also agree on the need to strengthen Medicaid.”

Leaving a health care meeting on the Hill on Thursday morning, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) echoed McConnell’s sentiment, telling reporters, “Medicaid is not being cut from our perspective.”

This is not true. The Senate’s bill would massively cut Medicaid, threatening to completely phase out the program as we currently know it.

The legislation would roll back Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid, starting in four short years. This would, per the CBO’s scoring of the House bill, leave 14 million people without health insurance.

It would also make deeper cuts to Medicaid by placing “per capita caps” on the program such that the states will receive only a set amount of money for each recipient, no matter how much their care actually costs. It ties these caps to the growth rate of medical inflation, meaning that because medical costs rise faster than other costs, each year states will get a smaller and smaller percentage of the actual cost of care.

Andy Slavitt, who ran Medicaid in the Obama administration, said on Twitter that “the main event in the Senate bill is the destruction of Medicaid,” characterizing it as “far, far worse than even the House bill.” He noted that because of changes to the eligibility for the health care exchanges, states could just eliminate Medicaid coverage and dump people in the exchanges with zero help or support. He also said everyone should be “in shock” over the fact over the changes to the waiver process.

The Medicaid program currently covers 20 percent of all Americans, 49 percent of all births, 60 percent of all kids with disabilities, and 64 percent of all nursing home residents.

The proposed changes to the program threaten all these populations. Pregnant women are excluded from any remaining Medicaid expansion benefits, according to the draft. And the cuts spike in the year 2025 — the same year, Slavitt notes, that Baby Boomers will turn 80.

The bill’s changes to Medicaid are concerning to some members of the Senate. Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) reportedly said he had “serious concerns” with the cuts to Medicaid. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) released a statement saying she would review the bill and is “particularly interested” in looking at “the changes in the Medicaid program.”

As a candidate, Donald Trump promised not to cut Medicaid at all. If he signs this bill, or the House bill, it will represent one of the biggest broken promises of his presidency.

After the Senate draft’s release, Trump noted that “it’s going to be negotiated.”

Reaction on the Hill for Sen. McConnell was swift. People with disabilities staged a “die-in” outside his office over the Medicaid cuts.

They were then arrested and dragged away.