Senate Health Bill Violates Principle to ‘Do No Harm’


EDITOR’S NOTE: This was originally published on Medium

Back in January, First Focus Campaign for Children (FFCC) signed a letter with all the other major leading child advocacy groups urging the House and Senate to adopt principles to ensure any legislative process improves the health of our nation’s children and, at the very least, commits to “do no harm.” Both the House and Senate have failed this simple principle.

In fact, the “Health Care Freedom Act” (HCFA), which was an amendment offered by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) at the close of debate over the Senate health care bill, would cause an estimated 16 million Americans to lose health coverage and have premiums increase by 20 percent in the insurance marketplace.

This is the opposite of progress and, consequently, FFCC strongly opposes the HCFA.

It is important, however, to note that the Senate was unable to find 50 votes to impose the massive $772 billion in Medicaid cuts and caps that were originally considered by the Senate. Medicaid per capita caps and block grants would have harmed millions of children in every single state across the country. Although the Senate bill initially became worse than the House bill when Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) pushed for even deeper cuts to Medicaid in the out-years, a majority in the Senate rejected imposing arbitrary caps and cuts upon the health and well-being of millions of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens, and so, arbitrary Medicaid caps were stripped out of HCFA.

Unfortunately, a House-Senate conference committee would bring back into play all the disastrous House Medicaid provisions, which included $834 billion in cuts and per capita caps and block grant options that could be imposed upon children.

Consequently, the Senate bill is an outright disaster and violates the simple, but critical, principle to “do no harm.” Congress should go back to the drawing board, pursue regular order, engage stakeholders and experts from across this country, and work toward bipartisan solutions that improve the lives of Americans and not leave people worse off. Too many lives are at stake for Congress to continue pressing forward without broad bipartisan agreement and a coherent plan.

Furthermore, as this process drags on, members of the House and Senate should listen carefully to the American people, who overwhelmingly oppose repealing Obamacare without a replacement in place. In short, only 14 percent of Americans support what the Senate is doing.

In fact, 88 percent of Americans oppose cuts to Medicaid the harm that would have been caused by the arbitrarily-imposed Medicaid per capita caps and block grants in the House.

Americans also oppose the gutting of consumer protections that protect people from pre-existing conditions exclusions and annual or lifetime limits.

We must do right by the next generation. Any bill must protect the most vulnerable among us, including low-income children, newborns, foster kids, and children with complex medical conditions — most of whom had nothing to do with Obamacare, and yet, were targeted by the House for cuts and harm.

Our nation’s leaders should ensure that the actions or votes that they will take will improve the health and well-being of children and not make things worse. Again, at the very least, they should agree to “do no harm” — a pretty simple request, and yet, both the House and Senate have failed to do.

Over 95 percent of America’s children have health coverage. Now is simply not the time to backtrack on that progress.