The cost of a healthcare win

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Elizabeth Newman
Elizabeth Newman

Thursday was a great day for House Republicans as they passed a bill that slashes $840 billion from the Medicaid program over the next decade and will cause an estimated 24 million Americans to lose their health insurance in the next decade.

But never mind those pesky details, because they won! The bill is so great that Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma issued a statement yesterday that it would help us move toward “patient-centered healthcare instead of government-centered healthcare.

“I have worked in the field of Medicaid for 20 years and have heard from many mothers like myself who have shared their struggles and their hopes for a more affordable, more sustainable healthcare system,” she wrote. “It is important that our most vulnerable citizens, the aged, the infirm, the blind and the disabled have more choices, greater access and peace of mind when it comes to their healthcare. The bill that was passed today is a great first step achieving this goal.”

I'm sure your residents will be thrilled to hear this news about “choices” and “peace of mind” from Verma regarding their Medicaid. After all, what does Medicaid coverage really give them, or you, other than the option for them to stay alive and for you to run your business? (Each state will vary on how badly the cuts hits it, but it's worth noting that in New York alone, which has 6 million beneficiaries, it will be a $2 billion cut.)

Putting aside the Medicaid issue, I am sympathetic to how many long-term care providers were opposed to Obamacare, and how many hoped that Republicans would find a way to create a better healthcare bill. I would even understand if the industry put aside the issues regular citizens care about — pre-existing conditions, for example — because the GOP plan created a better system for nursing home care. But this appears to be a case where the desire of the Republicans to have a win caused them to skirt the marathon course.

As of Thursday, many Republicans said they hadn't had time to read the bill or couldn't answer questions posed on it. But do you know who pointed out why you should read the legislation you've been asked to vote on? Former Speaker of the House John Boehner, a diligent public servant who seems awfully reasonable in hindsight. Boehner is like the ex-boyfriend who you broke up with because he wanted to go home to Ohio. Now that you've seen your other options, you wonder if you should reconnect with him on Facebook.

Even if we give those who voted yes the benefit of the doubt, Republicans didn't wait for a new Congressional Budget Office estimate. You may remember last time that they didn't like what the CBO had to say.  So while Speaker of the House Paul Ryan celebrated in the Rose Garden with President Donald Trump, there were already signs that U.S. senators may be a bit more thorough in their review. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-SC) tweeted Thursday that while he looked forward to reviewing the legislation, writing “A bill — finalized yesterday, has not been scored, amendments not allowed, and 3 hours final debate — should be viewed with caution.”

That's a statement I think most of us can agree with, and hopefully learn from as we move forward. But the time for diplomacy may have ended: As Jim Berklan wrote during the first round of this bill debate, it's time to take sides.

Follow Elizabeth @TigerELN.


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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.