SEIU Testifies at Sen. Blumenthal’s “Emergency Hearing” on Health Repeal

Days before the Senate Republicans released their version of the bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act and restructure Medicaid, Senator Richard Blumenthal held an “emergency hearing” in Hartford for Connecticut residents worried about how the bill would affect thousands throughout the state and millions across the country.

SEIU Connecticut State Council Director Tim Foley gave the following remarks.

My name is Tim Foley, and I’m the Director of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Connecticut State Council, representing over 55,000 workers and retirees. Thank you very much for the opportunity to present the concerns of my members, their friends, their family members, and for some, the patients they treat.

We know from multiple independent experts that the bill passed by the House increases costs, weakens protections, and puts millions of Americans at risk of losing our healthcare coverage. We can only guess at what percentage of the House bill will be retained by the Senate, because of the cloak of secrecy surrounding it. But even 80% of a bad bill is still a bad bill, one with the potential to do tremendous harm to Connecticut.

I’d like to focus on three areas.

First, Medicaid. An analysis from the Center for American Progress estimates that half of the people in Connecticut who would lose health coverage by 2026 would be on Medicaid, or HUSKY, as we call it. That’s 109,700 predominately low-income children, seniors, disabled persons, and working adults who could lose coverage due to the rollback of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, and deep Medicaid cuts following the imposition of federal caps. But HUSKY is the cornerstone of our healthcare system. 4 out of 10 babies are born on HUSKY, and nearly half of all children are covered by it at one point in their lives. It is the default long-term care plan for seniors and those with disabilities. It is one of the financial pillars for our hospitals and providers. Yet between the House repeal bill and the proposals in President Trump’s budget, Medicaid would be cut at the federal level by $1.3 trillion. That would be a catastrophe felt by every Connecticut resident.

The second area is Medicaid again, but from a different angle. Urban Institute’s study estimates that federal Medicaid funding in Connecticut would be reduced by $7 billion over ten years. Obviously that would create huge if not insurmountable problems for the state budget – and we’re presently having enough difficulties of our own balancing the budget. We don’t need further help from Washington, thank you very much. We know there are vague promises of flexibility or “greater freedom” which would allow for lower costs, but those savings are vague and speculative. The only guarantee would be our state gets hammered as much as our hospitals, our nursing homes, and our patients.

Finally, there is simply no way to impose cuts of this magnitude on so many parts of our state’s economy without substantial job loss. A recent Economic Policy Institute analysis estimated that passage of the AHCA would result in about 19,000 fewer jobs in Connecticut by 2022 compared to what would occur under the ACA.

The Republican healthcare repeal bill is a disaster that would destroy Medicaid and endanger the care that SEIU nurses, doctors, and home care workers deliver to seniors, children and people with disabilities. We urge you to use every tool at your disposal to protect the patients of Connecticut.

Read More at the Meriden Record-Journal.

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