The U.S. Capitol.

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Senate Republicans Quietly Agree To Agree On The AHCA

June 13, 2017

Members of the Senate have spent the last few weeks discussing the American Health Care Act, which passed the House and remains in discussions until it goes to another vote on the Senate floor

After the bill passed the House of Representatives, many assumed it would die on the Senate floor. Now that assumption has been called into question as analysts recognize some of the same strategies that helped the AHCA pass the House are being engaged in the Senate.

“[Senate Republicans] are hoping that they can fool the voters, quite honestly, and that’s really horrible,” said MIT economist Jonathan Gruber on BPR today.

There have been no public hearings for the drafting of the bill, and Republicans have only solicited feedback from a select group that can send emails with their thoughts.

Some analysts predict that Republicans will later solve a high-profile problem with the bill and decline to address the others, another maneuver designed to distract the public from fundamental issues with the AHCA.

“We all thought the moderate Republicans wouldn’t put up with the House bill,” Gruber said. “These moderate Republicans are turning out to be wolves in sheep’s clothing as the bill comes to the floor.”

Gruber also criticized Republicans for considering reducing spending on Medicaid by over $800 billion. He said to appease moderate Republicans who were originally opposed to Medicaid cuts, the Senate has discussed delaying the cuts for another two years.

Gruber says this strategy would serve as a buffer against scoring strikes from the Congressional Budget Office.

“The CBO score looks out 10 years, so the more you delay the Medicaid cuts, the less bad it looks from the CBO score,” he said. “In terms of actually protecting people, it’s just disgusting that these so-called moderate Republicans would suddenly find it okay to just delay the cuts for two years.”

Gruber stressed that Medicaid is an important support system for the elderly in the U.S., since nursing home care is often eventually covered by Medicaid.

“Medicaid is the main way that we pay for our moms and people who are disabled to use the nursing home,” Gruber said. “I think that’s getting lost in the debate.”

Gruber also pointed out that opposition to the bill hasn’t been as vocal as he expected.

“There are a number of groups that would really suffer if this law passed, not just the individuals and the people who suffer by losing health insurance, but doctors are going to lose patients, hospitals will lose business, insurance companies will lose enrollees,” he said. “Where are these advocacy groups coming out and attacking this horrible piece of legislation?”

Gruber expressed concern about the AHCA wiggling through the Senate in the same way it did the House.

“I’m stymied to be honest,” he said. “I think the question is who’s going to stand up and play the adults here, and so far no one’s doing it.”

Jonathon Gruber is the Ford Professor of Economics at MIT. He was instrumental in creating the Massachusetts health care reform and the Affordable Care Act. To hear his interview in its entirety, click on the audio player above.


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