Weingarten warns unionists of last-ditch GOP try to repeal ACA, substitute block grants

WASHINGTON—Teachers President Randi Weingarten is warning unionists they must resist Senate Republicans’ last-ditch attempt to repeal and “sabotage” the Affordable Care Act (ACA), replacing it with block grants that would throw up to 32 million people off health care coverage.

Weingarten issued her warning while also announcing AFT supports Medicare for All, the single-payer universal government-run health care bill Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind-Vt., and 16 other senators introduced on Sept. 13. Other unions also quickly backed Sanders.

The same day, Sens. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C. and Bill Cassidy, R-La., reintroduced their scheme, which they first floated in mid-July. It would turn almost all federal health care money into block grants to states – and let states decide who to serve and how to spend it.

And they’re relying on racing through the legislative calendar, facing a Sept. 30 deadline, to override the opposition.

Graham, Cassidy and cosponsors Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Ron Johnson, R-Wis., call their plan the latest Republican replacement for the ACA, which they revile. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says their scheme would be worse than prior TrumpCare “repeal and replace” bills, or even just repeal with no replacement. GOP President Donald Trump backs the Graham-Cassidy plan and Vice President Mike Pence is lobbying for it.

By eliminating the ACA’s Medicaid expansion and marketplace subsidies in 2020 and substituting “an inadequate block grant” to the states, the Graham-Cassidy bill “would provide $239 billion less between 2020 and 2026 than projected federal spending for the Medicaid expansion and marketplace subsidies under current law,” the center warns. There’s another 17 percent cut in 2027. The center produced the 32-million-person calculation.

“The block grant would not adjust based on changes in states’ funding needs, and it could be spent on virtually any health care purpose, with no requirement to offer low- and moderate-income people coverage or financial assistance.  And the block grant would disappear altogether in 2027.”

The Republicans are pushing Graham-Cassidy as they’re running out of time. Senate rules for a fiscal 2017 budget “reconciliation” bill let them jam it through with only 50 GOP votes – plus Pence as a tie-breaker – only through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.

The GOP also counts on passing the bill before Trumpcare foes can mobilize again. But MoveOn.org and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., joined Weingarten in blowing the whistle.

Other unions are mobilizing members through e-mail and tweets.

“It’s critical we continue to resist Donald Trump’s attempts to sabotage the Affordable Care Act and return us to a time when families were one illness away from bankruptcy,” Weingarten said. “We must continue to take immediate steps to build upon our current system, including stabilizing the insurance markets, preserving Medicaid expansion for older Americans and protecting patients with pre-existing conditions.”

That’s exactly the opposite of the Graham-Cassidy bill, health care analysts note. At least one state labor federation also joined the fray to save the ACA from the Graham-Cassidy measure.

“TAKE A STAND: Please make some calls today!” editor David Groves wrote in The Stand, the online newspaper of the Washington State Labor Council, on Sept. 18. “As Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., tweeted yesterday, we need to call the U.S. Capitol at 202-224-3121 and leave messages for both Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, and also for your representative — particularly if it’s one of the four Republicans from Washington state: Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Dave Reichert, Jaime Herrera Beutler, and Dan Newhouse. Tell them to OPPOSE the Graham-Cassidy ‘health care’ bill.”

Warren and Moveon also demanded ACA friends mobilize. So did other groups.

“The fight to save health care isn’t over. Sound the alarm. We need you to fight today & every day until this @SenateGOPbill is dead,” Warren tweeted. “Let me repeat: The Graham Cassidy @SenateGOP ‘health care’ bill IS Trumpcare, & it will rip health care away from millions of Americans.” Estimates of those losing coverage range from 20 million to 32 million.

Ben Wikler, Washington director for Moveon, tweeted on Sept. 17: “*deep breath* RED ALERT THREAD: GOP HEALTH CARE REPEAL IS BACK Danger real • Activism needed – timeline – targets – how to fight back.” He provided a timeline for Senate action, saying the vote could come as late as Sept. 27-29, after closed-door Senate GOP meetings this week and a break for Rosh Hashanah. There have been 10,959 retweets of his message so far.

“White House ‘all hands on deck.’ Rs whipping votes this week, already at 49,” Wikler’s follow-up tweet warned. He urged everyone to call the Capitol at 202-224-3121 and be connected to their senators. And when senators are in home states “FIND THEM AND PROTEST!” Wikler tweeted. 

“#GrahamCassidy cuts #Medicaid. 1,750,000 veterans covered by Medicaid. A vote for #GrahamCassidy is a vote to take healthcare from veterans,” VoteVets.org tweeted.

And Vanita Gupta, president of the labor-backed Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said repealing the ACA, and replacing it with Graham’s legislation – or anything else – would let insurers and states again make being female a pre-existing condition subject to discrimination. The ACA “is the first federal civil rights law to prohibit sex discrimination in health care…All individuals need to be protected from discrimination in health coverage or care,” Gupta said.

Source: PAI