Sen. Casey, Health Care Advocates Condemn Senate Republican Plan To Repeal And Replace Obamacare

Sep 21, 2017

In McKees Rocks Thursday morning, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) spoke out against the Senate Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare with the Graham-Cassidy bill.

He was joined by Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Allegheny County Health Department director Karen Hacker and Michelle Schwartzmier, whose 20-year-old daughter died of a heroin overdose earlier this year.

The group focused on relaying the negative impact the replacement bill could have on many of Pennsylvania's residents, including the 175,000 residents who receive substance use disorder services.

The Graham-Cassidy bill would end Obama's requirement that most people buy health coverage and larger employers offer it to workers. It would let insurers charge higher premiums to seriously ill customers and cut Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor, over time.

 

There's fresh evidence GOP voters are adamant that the party achieve its long-promised goal of replacing the Obama-era law. Success is far from assured but many Republicans are feeling pressure to get it done.

 

Money from the law's Medicaid expansion and cost-reductions it provides lower-earning people would be folded into block grants dispersed to states.

 

"When people lose Medicaid coverage, kids with disabilities, seniors trying to get into nursing homes, children, [it's] devastating," Casey said. "This will hurt a lot of people in our state."

Casey called the bill "a snake in the grass," and said it must be stopped. According to the Congressional Budget Office, 32 million people would lose coverage nationwide under a repeal-without-replace situation.

Hacker said the bill would devastate ongoing efforts to fight the opioid epidemic by scaling back access to treatment for addicts on Medicaid.

"If people cannot get access to treatment, which is already a challenge, imagine what we might see next year or the year after," Hacker said.

More than 4,500 Pennsylvanians died of a drug overdose in 2016, a majority from an opioid.

Senate Republicans hope to vote on the new bill next week.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.