Union Leaders Say House GOP’s Health Care Bill Hurts Millions

With the battle turning to the Senate, union leaders are criticizing the legislation and gearing up for a bitter fight in the upper chamber of Congress. 

WASHINGTON—With the battle over the future of the nation’s health care system turning to the U.S. Senate, union leaders are declaring the House GOP’s health care bill, which many critics call TrumpCare, would hurt millions of people.

The measure passed on an almost party-line vote of 217-213, after days of backroom bargaining within the ruling Republicans’ caucus. All 193 Democrats voted against the so-called American Health Care Act, as did 20 Republicans, many from districts that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton carried last year. The other 217 GOPers backed it.

Union leaders promptly vowed to take the fight to the Senate, where even the ruling Republicans seem leery of the House-passed measure. Senators vow to write their own and supposedly more “moderate” alternative.

“The fight is not over. We will continue to push for the common-sense reforms most Americans want – to expand health care coverage to more people and lower their costs,” said American Federation of Government Employees President J. David Cox.

And several hundred National Nurses United members descended on Congress on May 10 to lobby for their union’s solution to the health care mess: Medicare for all, called single-payer government-run care. Some 20 other unions agree (see separate nurses story).

An indication of the flak that pro-AHCA Republicans hit as they headed home for yet another congressional recess came in a full-page union ad in a Spokane, Wash., paper,  lam-basting GOP Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, the lone rep from that state to back the AHCA.

It was headlined: “Shame on you, Cathy.”

“It does not overstate the matter to say that if the AHCA becomes law, people will die,” the ad concludes. “People who lose Medicaid or health insurance — which will happen to thousands of your constituents and millions of Americans — won’t go to the doctor and find out how sick they are until it’s too late.

“This is serious. This is beyond politics, beyond ‘Obamacare’ vs. ‘Trumpcare.’ This is literally a matter of life and death.”

“As we explained in the ad, this legislation is not just irresponsible, it is cruel and inhumane,” Washington State Labor Council President Jeff Johnson told The Stand, the state’s leading labor news site. “Union members who work in hospitals, clinics, mental health and other health care facilities are outraged, as is the rest of the labor movement. What House Republican leaders have done is truly shameful.”  McMorris-Rodgers is a second-tier leader.

Besides that state fed, the Spokane Regional Labor Council, AFT Washington, the Washington Federation of State Employees/AFSCME 28, SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, two other Service Employees locals and UFCW Local 21 sponsored the ad.

Other unions sounded similar criticisms of the AHCA. Examples included:

STEELWORKERS: “Earlier this week, we sent a letter urging the U.S. House of Representatives to vote no on the American Health Care Act. Unfortunately, the Republican-led House narrowly passed the bill despite widespread disapproval from voters.

“From acne to heartburn to rape, the health care bill’s ‘Pre-Existing Conditions’ list’” – which would let insurers deny coverage – is “downright shameful and would mean unaffordable health care for many Americans: An estimated 130 million, including many Steelworkers and their families, according to Money magazine.

Money reports the American Health Care Act stipulates that states can allow insurers to charge people with pre-existing conditions more for health insurance — a practice banned under the current ACA law championed by former President Barack Obama. Insurers would be able to hike up premiums to an unaffordable amount, effectively pricing people out of the market – as much as $25,700 for one person.” And the Kaiser Family Foundation, which specializes in health care, calculates 27 percent of U.S. adults “have health conditions that would leave them uninsurable” under the GOP legislation, the Steelworkers added.

TEAMSTERS: The House GOP’s health care bill did keep one ACA (Obamacare) provision that really sends workers and their allies up the wall: The so-called ‘Cadillac tax’ on high-value health care plans. Teamsters President Jim Hoffa discussed that.

The GOP bill “not only includes this destructive Cadillac Tax that targets working families, but it allows insurance companies to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions and charge older Americans up to five times higher premiums than younger plan holders,” he said.

“Instead of finding new ways to enrich health care providers, Congress should be working to ensure this country provides affordable health care coverage for every American regardless of their pre-existing conditions. The AHCA will lead to only one result: Higher costs for lower-quality care for fewer Americans.”

NATIONAL NURSES UNITED blasted the GOP bill as “cruel and unusual punishment” before lobbying for Medicare for All – a solution that even Obama rejected seven years ago.

“The celebration by Republican leaders and the White House on the passage of this draconian and mean-spirited, punitive legislation is an appalling spectacle that symbolizes a new nadir in American politics,” said NNU Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro. She added voters will remember in November, of 2018.

“What should have been clear, from months of protests, to those who have added their name to the dishonor roll today, is they will pay a price from the constituents they have harmed,” DeMoro said.

AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVT. EMPLOYEES: “The House voted to take away health care from 24 million people, raise out-of-pocket costs for millions more, and allow insurance companies to charge more to people who are older or have pre-existing conditions,” said union President J. David Cox, a retired federal psychiatric nurse.

“Although doctors vow to ‘first, do no harm’ to their patients, members of Congress don’t follow the same philosophy. They passed a bill to scrap the Affordable Care Act and replace it with Trumpcare, which will leave American families worse off than they are today,” he said.

TEACHERS: The GOP “perpetrated a cruel hoax on America’s families and their quality of life,” union President Randi Weingarten said. “President Trump and House Republicans turned back the clock to a time when many families were one illness away from bankruptcy or destitution and unable to access affordable healthcare. Trumpcare strips healthcare coverage from millions of families to create new tax breaks for the wealthy.

“Let’s be clear: This bill robs millions of Americans of essential benefits like maternity and pediatric care, makes deep cuts to Medicaid that disproportionately punish low-income Americans and special needs students, and maintains the excise tax on working families’ group plans. And for the half of all Americans who obtain insurance through their employers, this bill puts them at risk of losing the current legal protections that cap out-of-pocket costs.”

Source: PAI