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Kathy Castor says Trump administration is using alternative facts to explain Medicaid cuts in Senate health care bill

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor is disputing the line being parroted by Trump administration officials that the GOP Senate health care bill won’t cut Medicaid costs by hundreds of billions of dollars.

“That’s untrue, because they propose to cut about $850 billion out of Medicaid over the next decade, and you simply cannot cut that far without damaging the health of our neighbors,” Castor told reporters Monday at the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge located on the Tampa campus of the University of South Florida.

“That’s a fallacy,” Castor added. “It would have a devastating impact on our neighbors.”

On Sunday, two officials with the Trump administration denied the bill will severely cut Medicaid.

“These are not cuts to Medicaid,” White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told ABC News’ “This Week.”

“It slows the rate for the future, and it allows governors more flexibility with Medicaid dollars, because they’re closest to the people in need,” she told host George Stephanopolous.

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Health Secretary Tom Price echoed Conway’s remark, saying that the Medicaid cut “all depends on what you’re comparing it to,” claiming it will be affected by how medical care costs change from year to year.

In fact, the legislation would roll back the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, starting in four years. It would also make deeper cuts to Medicaid by placing “per capita caps” on the program such that states will receive only a set amount of money for each recipient, no matter how much their care actually costs.

Unlike the House health care bill, the Senate bill appears to preserve coverage for pre-existing conditions by barring states from having the option to apply for a waiver. However, the Senate bill would allow states to apply for waivers so insurance companies could deny coverage for a list of Essential Health Benefits, including outpatient, mental health, maternity, and emergency room care, among others. Coverage of these benefits is guaranteed by the ACA. The House and Senate versions of the bills would change that.

“In states that choose these waivers, insurers could decide not to cover expensive cancer therapies,” said Heddie Sumpter with the American Cancer Society Action Network, one of several health care organization coming out in opposition to the Senate bill.

The opposition to the GOP alternative to the Affordable Care Act is also providing great concern to some Latino organizations.

“Under the ACA, millions of Hispanic families across the country, and tens of thousands in Tampa have finally attained quality health care coverage that they would otherwise not be able to afford,” said Sylvia Alvarez with the National Council of La Raza, who said the Senate bill would provide just as much pain to Latinos as the earlier passed version in the House of Representatives.

Citing a study conducted by the national NCLR branch, Alvarez said between 2013 and 2015, the overall uninsured rate for non-elderly Hispanics in Florida declined from 29 percent to 19 percent. Among Latino children, she said the rate dropped from 14.4 percent to 8.5 percent during the same two-year period.

Castor said she can’t figure out why congressional Republicans — first in the House and now in the Senate, are going about eviscerating the Affordable Care Act in a way that won’t bring relief to many of their own constituents.

“I heard no one on the stump out there saying ‘we’re going to target kids, we’re going to target seniors and nursing homes and the disabled community for cuts, and that’s their campaign platform,” said the Tampa Democrat. “Instead they’re using this repeal and replace for the Affordable Care Act as a guise to go change the Medicaid program like never before.”

Castor said it was time for Republicans and Democrats to come together in Washington to fight against higher health care costs. “Nothing in the GOP Senate bill addresses the issue of higher costs,” she said, adding as she is

“Nothing in the GOP Senate bill addresses the issue of higher costs,” she said, adding, as she is wont to do, that Congress should work on reducing the price of prescription drugs.

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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