Illinois Democrats in Congress criticize GOP health care plan, Republicans mum ahead of possible vote

Chicago Tribune

Illinois Democrats in Congress expressed outrage over the Senate Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, saying the state in coming years could lose an estimated $8 billion in Medicaid dollars under the GOP proposal.

“Everybody thought that these repeal-and-replace bills were dead, but it turns out it’s a zombie that can’t be killed,” U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Schaumburg Democrat, said Thursday. “It comes back over and over again.”

Democrats pointed to an analysis by Avalere that predicts $8 billion in lost Medicaid dollars for Illinois from 2020 to 2026, compared with what it stands to get under current law. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has not yet had time to analyze the bill ahead of a potential vote next week.

Republicans including U.S. Reps. Peter Roskam of Wheaton and Randy Hultgren of Plano did not respond to Tribune requests for comment on the bill. The party has made dismantling Obamacare a top priority for years but hasn’t yet succeeded in sending legislation to President Donald Trump’s desk.

The latest version is named for the GOP senators who wrote it: Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Dean Heller of Nevada and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.

Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Channahon was on Air National Guard duty and not available for an interview, spokeswoman Maura Gillespie said. “As it stands right now, we don’t have enough information on the Graham-Cassidy bill because it’s still evolving and the language of the bill is still in flux,” she said, noting the Illinois impact could change.

The seven House Republicans from Illinois in May supported a measure to end many provisions of the ACA. All 11 House Democrats were opposed.

“TrumpCare 3.0 — a different name with the same disastrous consequences,” said Rep. Mike Quigley, a Chicago Democrat, referring to two earlier pushes in Congress this year to undo key parts of the ACA, commonly known as Obamacare.

The proposal would end the mandate that Americans have health insurance, as has been required under the ACA. The measure also would restructure how the federal government gives health care assistance to some 80 million people, creating a new system for distributing hundreds of billions of dollars of Uncle Sam’s money.

Illinois and other states that expanded Medicaid under Obamacare would be hit hard, lawmakers said. In the Senate, Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth are sure to be “no” votes if the new measure is taken up. A earlier bid in the Senate to undo the ACA sank in July.

This week Durbin in a tweet cited the American Medical Association’s rejection of the new GOP proposal, saying: “America’s doctors are against #Trumpcare. Enough is enough.”

The AMA is among many high-profile entities battling the bill, as is the Illinois Health and Hospital Association, which represents more than 200 hospitals in the state. The group announced its opposition Thursday, with spokesman Danny Chun saying the latest version “is worse than any other bill that came up this year.”

Duckworth, the state’s junior senator, said it was a “shame” that Senate Republicans “have abandoned bipartisan efforts to improve our health care system and are once again trying to rush legislation to overhaul one-fifth of our economy before the American people have even had a chance to look at it.”

Democratic U.S. Reps. Dan Lipinski of Western Springs and Brad Schneider of Deerfield were part of a bipartisan, centrist group working in recent months to shore up the ACA. But the “Problem Solvers” group saw its plan lose ground, and Lipinski said the Senate “will instead revert to poisonous partisanship” to vote on the latest measure.

Democratic Reps. Danny Davis of Chicago and Bill Foster of Naperville cited the bill’s foes in the medical and insurance sectors and among disease-fighting groups such as the American Cancer Society in opposing the plan. Rep. Robin Kelly of Matteson said Republicans want to restore the power of insurance firms to require higher premiums from people with pre-existing medical conditions.

Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Evanston said 650,000 Illinoisans have gained Medicaid coverage since the ACA was passed, and Rep. Cheri Bustos of Moline, said vulnerable, rural hospitals rely heavily on Medicaid dollars.

kskiba@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @KatherineSkiba

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