John O'Connor
John O’Connor

It’s hard to describe how incredibly dangerous and stupid the latest GOP effort to replace Obamacare really is. But I’ll try.

This bill, if enacted, will ensure some extremely unpleasant things happen to skilled care operators — and the people they care for.

Things like billions of dollars in Medicaid reimbursement vaporizing.

Things like many of your residents being denied access to care.

Things like, well, perhaps hundreds if not thousands of people dying each year because of those first two things.

But in Washington right now, such trifling concerns seem to matter little. The big push now is to get Obamacare repealed in September, before help from Democrats would be required.

And the last, best hope for making that happen is swift approval of a quarter-baked (not even half-baked) measure backed by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has offered support, along with the White House. Republicans want a healthcare victory in the worst way, and they just might get it.

Because of a planned rush to vote without time for any real vetting, those who support the measure are doing so without knowing how much it would cost or how it would affect insurance premiums, not to mention how many people it would help or hurt.

Is this happening because the Graham-Cassidy bill is better legislation than what it replaces? No. The real reason is as cynical as they come: It’s being done to discredit the person whose name is associated with the current law. After all, he’s from the other side.

And what will Graham-Cassidy accomplish? For starters, it would bring about the most dramatic changes to the Medicaid program since its inception. This would happen in two key ways. The first is that the measure would eliminate program expansions contained in the Affordable Care Act. More fundamentally, it would give states a check for Medicaid services to use basically as they see fit. By some estimates, more than $1 trillion in Medicaid funds could vaporize. As in, removed from a program that helps fund care for about two-thirds of our nation’s nursing home residents. 

As you might imagine, two groups representing skilled care operators have blasted the measure. Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living, said the funding reductions would be “catastrophic.”

Niles Godes, senior vice president of congressional affairs for LeadingAge, said the proposal “is bad for older adults and bad for America.”

The irony here is that many of the people who are eager to approve this train wreck of a bill will tell you with a straight face that they are God-fearing Christians.

Yet look what they propose to do: afflict the afflicted in order to comfort the comfortable. I doubt Jesus would approve.

John O’Connor is McKnight’s Editorial Director.