- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Democratic mayors ramped up their attacks Wednesday on a Senate GOP health bill that’s stalled for now but likely to return, warning that estimated coverage losses and cuts to Medicaid funding would devastate their budgets, worsen the opioid crisis and afflict local hospitals.

“The ballgame is far from over,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, said, whipping opposition to GOP efforts to revive their bill over the July 4th recess.

The mayors argued that federal savings in the GOP plan amount to a “cost-shifting” scheme that slams state and local governments, pointing to estimates that say millions would fall off the insurance rolls starting next year.

Those people will still require care, they said, and phasing out Obamacare’s vast expansion of Medicaid coverage will restrict treatment for addicts from Alaska to Appalachia who are hooked on heroin or prescription painkillers.

“Without Medicaid expansion, there’s no place — absolutely no place — for them to go,” said Nan Whaley, the Democratic mayor of Dayton, Ohio.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell shelved plans for the Senate to vote on the GOP’s Obamacare repeal this week because he failed to win enough votes from his own Republican troops to proceed with his draft bill.

President Trump and Republicans say they will regroup and find a way forward before the August recess, though it is unclear how leaders will smooth over clear divisions over cuts to Medicaid insurance for the poor or Obamacare regulations designed to protect people with pre-existing conditions.

Mr. McConnell cannot afford more than two defections from his 52-seat majority and still pass a plan under budget rules that allow him to avoid a Democratic filibuster.

During a conference call, Democratic mayors openly cheered Senate Republicans who openly opposed the plan.

Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve hailed Sen. Dean Heller, Nevada Republican, for following Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval’s lead in blasting Medicaid cuts in the GOP plan, while Bangor Mayor Joe Baldacci praised Sen. Susan Collins — Maine Republican who balked at estimated coverage losses in the plan — as among his city’s “champions” in Washington.

Meanwhile, Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, outlined ways to move the plan further to the right, from allowing individuals to band together to form “association plans” to axing stability funds he blasted as an “insurance company bailout” and refundable tax credits he views as a new entitlement.

He also said insurers should be allowed, but not forced, to impose a waiting period on enrollees who had a significant lapse in coverage and might have waited until they got sick to sign up.

Indeed, Republicans are bracing for pushback from both sides of the political spectrum over the weeklong recess.

The GOP base is counting on them not to get weak-kneed and fumble the repeal push, yet the Congressional Budget Office projected 22 million fewer people would hold health insurance by 2026 as a result of the Senate bill, fueling progressives who say the plan is cruel.

Right now fewer than four in 10 voters back the GOP bill, according to a Politico-Morning Consult poll conducted before Senate leaders pulled the bill and released Wednesday.

It said 38 percent of voters approve of the GOP plan, or shy of the 45 percent who disapprove, while 17 percent had no opinion. Among Republicans, six in 10 approve of the bill yet a quarter of them disapprove.

Republicans say they have no choice but to rescue Americans from an individual insurance market buffeted by rising premiums and dwindling choices on the Obamacare’s exchanges. Unless new plans swoop in, counties in Missouri, Indiana and Ohio — 49 in all — are projected to have no participating insurers in the program in 2018.

GOP lawmakers on Wednesday highlighted the withdrawal of the Minuteman Health co-op plan in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, which served 37,000 consumers. So far, 19 of Obamacare’s initial 23 nonprofit coops have failed.

House and Senate Democrats fought back Wednesday with a report detailing the Trump administration’s “sabotage” of the individual market, citing his wavering stance on enforcing Obamacare’s “individual mandate” and payments, known as cost-sharing reductions, that reimburse insurers for picking up low-income customers’ costs.

“By choosing not to make CSR payments, providing unclear direction about enforcement of the individual mandate, and generally creating uncertainty about the future of our health care system, the Trump Administration is forcing insurers to raise premiums for the 2018 plan year,” Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce and Senate Health committees said. “These actions are threatening to make health care inaccessible and unaffordable for millions of Americans.”

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