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Shaheen, Hassan label GOP health care plan ‘disaster,’ ‘height of irresponsibility’

By: John DiStaso


The Republican health care plan backed by President Donald Trump is “a real disaster” for New Hampshire, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said at a news conference Monday, flanked by Sen. Maggie Hassan, health care providers and a recovered victim of substance abuse disorder.

Joining Shaheen at Concord Hospital to attack the House Republican-sponsored American Health Care Act, Hassan called the plan’s provision to end Medicaid expansion ”the height of irresponsibility.” Both senators promised to work against the bill.

New Hampshire Republican Party Chairman Jeanie Forrester responded, “This is just more partisan politics from the two loudest cheerleaders for ’Obamacare’ in the U.S. Senate. It’s ironic because New Hampshire’s opioid addiction exploded under then-Gov. Hassan’s inattentive eye largely because she was too busy positioning her run for the U.S. Senate.”

In Washington, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump continues to strongly support the GOP plan while using administrative actions “to provide essential regulatory relief to insurers, increasing coverage choices and providing lower premium options to individuals and families.”

Spicer said that with two additional bills of a “three-pronged” plan yet to be released, Trump will work to “increase choice while decreasing prices.’”

“We will empower the American people to make their own choices about health care,” he said.

Shaheen and Hassan spoke as they and officials on both sides of the issue awaited the results of the Congressional Budget Office’s scoring report of the Republican House leadership plan, which is drawing criticism from Democrats, conservative Republicans and some GOP senators.

Later Monday, the CBO released its report, showing that the number of uninsured Americans would grow by 14 million in 2018 under the American Health Care Act and the number would grow to 24 million by 2026.

The report largely attributed the projected increase in the number of uninsured people to the bill’s provisions to end Medicaid expansion and cap overall federal spending for the Medicaid program.

Hassan said the report from the CBO, a nonpartisan office, confirmed that the GOP plan would lead to “huge premium hikes” and a loss of coverage for 24 million Americans. She promised to “fight back against this misguided ‘TrumpCare’ legislation.”

Shaheen also said the CBO report "confirms our worst fears about the catastrophic impact of 'TrumpCare.'” She called on congressional Republican leaders to withdraw the bill and work with Democrats to improve the Affordable Care Act.

At the mid-day news conference, Shaheen said the GOP plan “decimates Medicaid. It talks about turning it into a block grant and per capita program. It slashes coverage for drug treatment.

“We know that we are facing a challenge from the heroin and opioid epidemic, and so many people are getting their treatment coverage through the expansion of Medicaid. That would be dramatically affected,” she said.

Hassan noted that while she was governor, Democrats and Republicans reached consensus on a Medicaid expansion plan. Washington Republicans would “un-do the progress that we are making,” she said.

Repealing Medicaid expansion, she said, “takes health care out of reach for thousands of Granite Staters. When you repeal Medicaid expansion, it hurts the ability of those on the front lines to save lives and to combat this epidemic. Treatment providers would have to cut back on the help that they provide.”

Hassan called Medicaid expansion “a lifeline for thousands of people in the Granite State. And to take that lifeline away is the height of irresponsibility, and it is unconscionable.”

Shaheen cited a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal leaning think-tank, that said that repeal of the Affordable Care Act would result in 118,000 Granite State residents losing health care coverage. Shaheen’s office later clarified that the figure did not take into account how many people would retain coverage under the GOP plan.

“I think the answer is not to do what the Republicans are talking about,” Shaheen said. “We don’t need ‘TrumpCare.’ What we need is to work together to replace this law in a way that will be beneficial for New Hampshire.”

Shaheen called for bipartisanship on improving the ACA, but she said, “Do I have a specific idea for what can be improved right now? I’m not prepared to say that, but if we work together, can we do that? I think that yes, we can. But I don’t think the plan that’s been introduced is a way to improve the law.”

“All it does is increase costs for most people and reduce coverage and throw a lot of people off their treatment.”

Meeting with governor

Shaheen said she will not support a block grant program “that is going to cap payments and reduce money that the state gets to cover health care, absolutely not.”

She suggested Granite Staters ask Republican Gov. Chris Sununu “who he plans to repeal coverage for under that reduced block grant that’s being proposed under the new health care law.”

Sununu said last week that he has “some concerns” about the Republican bill, saying he wants to be sure the state has flexibility and a role in “making sure we can design a system that meets the needs of our citizens."

He said he also wants to be sure that the plan deals “very seriously” with efforts to fight the opioid epidemic.

Shaheen said she had planned to meet with Sununu last weekend but had to postpone the meeting due to a conflict in her schedule. She said the meeting will be rescheduled.

Shaheen said the meeting will be on a variety of topics – not solely health care -- and that she has regularly met with the state’s governors on various issues throughout her time in the Senate.

Hassan: ‘Age tax’

Hassan said the GOP plan “penalizes individuals who have a lapse in coverage with a 30 percent penalty to get coverage again. So, you have the misfortune of losing your job and losing your coverage. You let your coverage lapse because you can’t afford to pay anything for health insurance, and now to get back on, you pay a 30 percent penalty.”

“’TrumpCare’ creates an age tax,” Hassan said. “It would allow insurers to charge older Americans five times more than what they charge younger Americans, resulting in increased premiums.”

“It hurts children, seniors and people with disabilities because it drastically cuts federal dollars to our traditional Medicaid program. It forces states to either cut services or raise taxes to cover the services that it would otherwise cut.”

Shaheen said that people are benefiting under the Affordable Care Act because it mandates coverage of people with pre-existing conditions. She cited its preventive care and reduction in the prescription drug “doughnut hole” for seniors.

Hassan said the GOP bill “continues Republican attacks on women’s access to health care by defunding Planned Parenthood,” noting that the organization provides “critical health care services” to 11,000 Granite Staters.

“And there aren’t other providers who can simply move in to take up that slack and provide that care,” Hassan said.

She called defunding Planned Parenthood “absolutely unacceptable,” and Shaheen agreed that she will not support any plan that defunds the organization.

“We all agree that there is more to do to improve our health care system,” Hassan said. “There are things we can do to improve it working together, but ‘TrumpCare’ is clearly the wrong approach.”

‘Substance-free’ thanks to Medicaid

Phil Spanguolo, who said he is a recovered victim of substance abuse disorder, said that nearly two years ago, his addiction cost him his job, and, “Were it not for Medicaid, I would not have gotten the help that allows me to be standing here.”

He said he is “substance-free” as a result of the help he received from Medicaid and is now a licensed recovery coach at Navigating Recovery of the Lakes Region in Laconia, a nonprofit program that he said he co-founded.

He said that more than 90 percent of the people who are in the program are Medicaid recipients.

“To take that away would be a tragedy. So many people would be lost,” Spaguolo said.

Brendan Williams, president and CEO of the New Hampshire Health Care Association, which represents 90 long-term care facilities in the state, called the GOP plan “an attack upon our most vulnerable citizens.”

He said 4,200 Medicaid recipients reside in the state’s nursing homes.

“People are not going to stop aging in the state of New Hampshire. Children are not going to stop being born with disabilities in the state of New Hampshire,” Williams said. “It is immoral, and we will fight it.”

Robert Steigmeyer, president and CEO of Concord Hospital, said 187,000 New Hampshire residents are Medicaid recipients, including 20,000 in the hospital’s system.

By cutting Medicaid, he said, “We risk diminishing the quality of health and the quality of life of Granite Staters,” he said.

Shea-Porter, Kuster react to CBO

Also Monday, Democratic U.S. Reps. Carol Shea-Porter and Ann Kuster issued statements in reaction to the CBO report with criticism of the GOP health care bill.

Shea-Porter said the report “should be the nail in the coffin for this draconian proposal, which would not only take away Americans’ insurance but also slash Medicaid, end Medicaid expansion, roll back requirements that insurance cover basic medical services, increase deductibles, and raise premiums for older Americans – all while slashing taxes for the wealthiest.”

“Now that the Republican health bill’s devastating impact has been laid out in black and white, it’s time for President Trump and congressional Republicans to join the American people and the health care industry in rejecting this harmful bill, and instead come to the table to find bipartisan solutions that make our health care system work better for everyone.”

Kuster said the report “only confirmed what we already knew -- the Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act would increase costs, limit access, and cover fewer Americans. This reckless plan jeopardizes the health and safety of Granite State families and Americans nationwide, as it rips away healthcare from millions while asking millions more to pay higher costs for less coverage.”

“The Affordable Care Act is not perfect, and I’m willing to work with Republicans and Democrats to improve the law, but not at the expense of the health care of New Hampshire middle class families and seniors.”