Connecticut braces for tight vote on health care

September 22, 2017 GMT

BRIDGEPORT — Speaking Friday to a room of two-dozen health care workers, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., encouraged Connecticut residents to lobby red states in opposition to the latest proposal to scrap Obamacare.

Later in the day it was reported that Arizona Sen. John McCain would break from his party and not support the Republican bill to replace the Affordable Care Act.

But while the bill teetered on the brink, it was not quite doomed on Friday afternoon.

The proposal to undo President Barack Obama’s health care law would shift money and decision-making from Washington to the states. It is expected to come to a vote next week, a deadline that’s focused the GOP on making a final run at the issue.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday tweeted in support of the bill, sponsored by senators Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Bill Cassidy, R-La.

He chastised GOP holdouts and countered reports that it weakens a rule barring insurance companies from taking away coverage from people who are ill.

“I would not sign Graham-Cassidy if it did not include coverage of pre-existing conditions. It does!” Trump said. “A great Bill. Repeal & Replace.”

Connecticut’s all-Democratic congressional delegation opposes the Graham-Cassidy bill.

“Sen. Blumenthal and (congressman) Chris Murphy oppose any change that isn’t the change they propose — that isn’t more government,” said state GOP Chairman J.R. Romano. “I am personally on Obamacare — it’s horrible... premiums are going up.”

By imposing a medicare cap and increasing block grants, the bill would reduce total federal funding health care funding to both Connecticut and Arizona by around $5 million according to a CNBC report citing a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The block grant system would end incentives for Medicare expansion. And health care workers at Southwest Community Health Center where Bluementhal spoke Friday fear that a loss in Medicare dollars could increase the number of uninsured patients walking through their doors.

“If they can’t afford to pay for it, they don’t go, and then we end up seeing them sometimes years later with very serious medical problems,” said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Dara Richards.

Richards gave the example of colonoscopy, an exam that can cost hundreds of dollars but is vital to preventing death from colon cancer.

Sixty percent of the center’s patients paid with Medicare in 2016; 20 percent didn’t have insurance and paid on a sliding scale.

As Blumenthal prepared to leave the health center, a man asked if he should contact Republican lawmakers directly, even if he wasn’t their constituent.

“Yes,” Bluementhal said. “Especially if it’s by internet — then they don’t know where it’s from.”

cattanasio@ctpost.com / on Twitter @viacedar

The Associated Press contributed reporting from Washington