US Senator Bob Menendez from New Jersey joined with many health care advisers, including myself, in expressing his outrage over the secretive process used to draft the replacement bill for health care reform that is apparently designed to hide the details from public scrutiny.
I’ve been an advocate of health care reform and an active participant in the public policy process from a small business perspective for more that 30 years that span several changes in political leadership. My comments on health care reform and tax policy are quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine and other public media. I offered support that was requested by the Republican Congress led by Newt Gingrich in the early 1980s. I was aware that someone with a “Office of the President of the United States” registered internet domain address periodically read my blog on health care reforms for small business during the Democratic-led years around 2012. In late 2015 the National Federation of Independent Businesses asked me to write a letter in opposition to portions of the Affordable Care Act in preparation for a meeting with Senator Menendez and others. Clearly the heath care reform measures of the past thirty plus years have been developed through bipartisan open public policy. As for me personally, I’ve demonstrated the ability to work with both political parties as part of the public lawmaking process. That is not true today. Never in all these years have I felt like such an outsider to the health care reform process as today. Like most of America, I don’t know what’s in the hidden legislation and I must presume, as Senator Menendez does, that there are sinister reasons why this small group of Republican Senator’s are acting in secret.
This is Senator Menendez’ message:
As I send this note to you, 13 Republican men are meeting behind closed doors, secretly writing a healthcare bill – a bill that will impact every American and one-sixth of our nation’s economy. I haven’t seen their plan and I know you haven’t either. Because there hasn’t been a single public meeting or hearing to discuss it.
It’s pretty clear why Senate Republicans are hiding their plan to gut the Affordable Care Act from the American people. They are ashamed of it. Because if it’s anything like the House Republican bill that passed earlier this year, it’s going to be mean-spirited and devastating for our families – stripping health insurance from millions of people.
Sadly, that’s what we expect. I’ve forcefully denounced the House Republican bill, or AHCA, as I believe it is cruel and won’t improve anyone’s healthcare.
Here’s what we know about it, by the numbers:
NINE HUNDRED PERCENT
A 60-year-old in Monmouth County who makes $20,000 a year would see premiums rise to $9,660 from $960, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. That’s an increase of over 900%!
Under the House Republican healthcare proposal, 95% of New Jerseyans wouldn’t get a tax cut, but the wealthiest FIVE PERCENT would receive a total of $13 billion in tax cuts over 10 years. New Jersey Policy Perspective explains that, “the wealthiest 1 percent of New Jersey taxpayers would receive 73 percent of the tax cut. These taxpayers, with an average annual income of $2.9 million, would receive an average tax cut of $23,000 a year.”
The House Republicans’ bill proposes ending federal funding for the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid, which would force New Jersey taxpayers to fork over nearly $27 billion more a year in taxes to cover the increased costs of covering 552,000 New Jerseyans with Medicaid.
FIVE HUNDRED AND FORTY THOUSAND
The latest estimates are that through Medicaid cuts and the loss of health insurance subsidies, 540,000 New Jerseyans would lose their health insurance under the House Republican bill.
54,000 New Jerseyans with jobs tied to Medicaid and tax credits could lose their job if the House Republicans’ healthcare bill were to become law.
SIX BILLION PLUS
The massive funding cuts to healthcare and New Jerseyans losing their health insurance would translate to $6.6 billion in lost economic activity in the state of New Jersey alone.
Ten out of 12 New Jersey members of the House of Representatives, both Republicans and Democrats, agree that the House Republican bill is too mean for New Jersey, and voted against it.
…So, what happens next?
In just seven days, Republican leaders in the Senate expect us to vote on a bill that we haven’t even seen! This is a bill that would completely upend 1/6th of our economy, and impact the lives of millions of Americans.
That’s the number of public hearings Senate Republicans have told us we should expect on their bill. Keep in mind that when Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act in 2009, we had held 53 bipartisan meetings, hearings, briefings and roundtable discussions in the Finance Committee alone.
Twenty hours. That’s how long we will be allowed to debate the Republican health care bill when they bring it to the floor. Think about that – less than one day will be spent debating a bill that will affect every American for years to come. When we finally brought the Affordable Care Act to the floor, both Republicans and Democrats spent 25 straight days debating it in front of the American people.
The secret process Senate Republicans are using to jam this bill through is absurd and completely unacceptable. The fear is real – they want to bring the bill to the floor, rush it in the dark of night, for a simple reason – they are ashamed of it. I’m proud of work we did to expand health insurance coverage to millions, and provide necessary protections for working families and those with pre-existing conditions. I will be fighting to protect your healthcare with everything I’ve got.
U.S. Senator Bob Menendez
My criticism here is not based on the content of the secret Republican health care bill or its potential effect on the nation. We don’t even know that yet. This criticism is simply focused on the point that secretive lawmaking is an unacceptable process for the United States of America.
I strongly suspect that when we do see the details of this secret Senate project it will become clear that the focus of the bill is a wealth transfer from the poor to the rich and that it is not actually a proposal to fix the health care system. Nothing from any source suggests that Republican leadership has the motivation to address the real problem with heath care that we’ve known for decades: the price of health care is too high relative to the rest of the economy. Only cost controls and rationing will fix our health care problem. Republicans won’t implement these types of forced cost reductions or health care rationing across society but they will try to force it for the poor. The only question is whether we allow it.