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Kathy Castor: Graham-Cassidy health care bill would ‘devastate’ Florida families

in 2017/The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

If the latest Republican proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act passed in the U.S. Senate next week, Kathy Castor believes it would be “devastating” to Florida families.

“We’re dealing with devastation from the hurricane, but here is a bill that’s going to be devastating to families all across America,” the Tampa Democratic congresswoman said at a news conference Thursday in front of a Tampa Family Health Center in North Tampa.

The bill, sponsored by South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham and Louisiana Republican Bill Cassidy, would shift federal funds away from states that have managed to expand coverage to the states where Republican leaders refused to expand Medicaid or encourage enrollment.

Castor depicted the bill in draconian terms, saying that those currently on the ACA, as well as those relying on Medicaid, would be deleteriously affected. Even those getting employer-based health care would suffer, she said.

“What this bill does is raise costs, it rips coverage away for millions of Americans, it imposes an age tax, and it tanks all of the efforts that were underway to create a bipartisan solution to lower costs and increased coverage across the country.”

That bipartisan legislation Castor mentioned was a proposal by Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander and Washington Democrat Patty Murray intending to stabilize 2018 premiums in the individual health insurance market.

On Tuesday, Alexander declared those negotiations were dead as the GOP establishment rallied around the Graham-Cassidy bill.

Damian Caraballo, an emergency medicine physician, said the American College of Emergency Physicians is dead-set against the GOP bill, adding that it had several “concerning provisions.”

“What we really want is to make sure that our patients have access to care and access to specialists,” he said.

The March of Dimes is one of more than a dozen organizations opposing the Graham-Cassidy bill. “We are more interested in the bipartisan approach,” said the organization’s Heddy Sumpter.

Advocates for the bill say that devolving the issue to the states will be a boon for the public since state lawmakers are more in touch with their constituents than is the case in Washington.

But in a state in which GOP lawmakers rejected expanding Medicaid that would have provided health care to at least 700,000 more Floridians, Castor said it was too big a risk to let Tallahassee have more control over people’s health care.

“I’m afraid based on our history with Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-controlled legislature the guarantee against discrimination for pre-existing conditions would be at risk,” she said. “I believe they would have a very skimpy package for essential health benefits that’s currently provided by the ACA. I think they would cut Medicaid substantially over time.

“It would all be in their hands, and there would be very little federal oversight to make sure that families get the care that they need,” the Tampa Representative added.

Senate Republicans likely will vote on the bill by the end of next week. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he will only bring up the bill if it will be successful. Republicans need 50 votes for it to pass.

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 [email protected]

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