GOP's Latest Obamacare Bill Could Cut Coverage From Three Million Floridians

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Sen. Marco Rubio
There are 21 million people in Florida. Sen. Marco Rubio is almost certainly about to vote for an Obamacare repeal bill that, according to a study released yesterday, would likely cut health coverage from 3.2 million of them. That's roughly 15 percent of the state.

And, on top of that, if you're over the age of 60 in Florida and make only $25,000 per year, this bill would also cost you an extra $15,000 per year.

Such is the cruel reality the center-left Center for American Progress (CAP) and nonpartisan American Association of Retired Professionals (AARP) warn that the so-called Graham-Cassidy health-care bill will hoist upon the Sunshine State if the measure becomes law. Floridians are now forced to take time out of their day to call Rubio's office and beg him not to vote for a bill that could kill them, but it's unlikely anyone's phone calls will change Marco's mind.

The Senate could vote on the Graham-Cassidy repeal bill as early as next week. In the leadup, CAP (which tends to back centrist, pro-business Democrats) released a study warning that the bill would likely cut coverage from 32 million people — more than either of the GOP's failed Obamacare repeals earlier this year, the American Health Care Act and the Better Care Reconciliation Act.

Under Graham-Cassidy, Florida would take the second-largest coverage hit in America, behind only California, where 4.5 million residents could find themselves without insurance by 2027.

"Like the ACA repeal bills considered by the House and Senate earlier this year, Graham-Cassidy would slash the ACA programs that expanded health coverage to millions, weaken consumer protections for people with pre-existing conditions, as well as limit federal support for Medicaid coverage for low-income adults and children, the elderly, and the disabled," CAP warns.

Typically, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) would release its own coverage-loss estimates before the Senate votes on the measure, but the CBO says it might not have enough time to analyze the plan before congressional Republicans try to ram it through. That means we're stuck with estimates from nonprofit groups and think tanks.

But those groups agree this bill is a travesty: Both CAP and the nonprofit, nonpartisan Commonwealth Fund warn that the bill would cut 32 million people off of their insurance plans. Simply repealing the Affordable Care Act with no replacement is projected to have the same impact, so it's unclear what good the Cassidy-Graham bill would even do. (Vox policy analyst Sarah Kliff said earlier this week the latest repeal package is the most radical one she's seen.)

And according to figures AARP released Wednesday, the bill would be criminally mean to the Florida's poor and elderly populations, which already devote disproportionately large portions of their incomes to health-care costs.

AARP says that by 2020, Florida residents over the age of 60 making $25,000 per year would be charged a maximum of $10,060 more in basic insurance premiums and a max of $5,653 more in out-of-pocket costs. That adds up to an extra $15,714 in new costs in less than three years.

That's technically lower than the national $16,174 average price hike AARP calculated, but that's still not exactly calming news.

"The Graham-Cassidy (GC) bill, as proposed on September 13, 2017, threatens to make health care unaffordable and inaccessible for millions of older Americans," AARP warned Wednesday. "The bill eliminates two sources of financial assistance — premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions — critical to ensuring that low- to moderate-income older adults are able to afford the coverage they need."

The studies come amid a flood of data that indicates Graham-Cassidy would be terrible for Florida: In addition to letting insurers charge patients with preexisting conditions more money, the bill is expected to cut $17 billion from Florida's Medicaid funding pools by 2027, according to the nonprofit Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The Kaiser Family Foundation released a study yesterday that corroborated the CBPP's findings. (The foundation instead says Florida could lose $14 billion.)

Rubio has not yet officially said he'll vote for the measure, but it would legitimately stun Washington if he didn't. The junior U.S. senator from Florida previously said he'd vote for something as drastic as a simple Obamacare repeal without any replacement plan in place; Cassidy-Graham technically offers more than that, although the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund warns the bill would still cut insurance from 32 million Americans.

This past Wednesday, Rubio told the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee bureau he liked one portion of the bill, which would allocate money in static "block-grant" pools to each individual state from the years 2020 to 2026. Republicans are enamored with block-grant programs like this, but health-care analysts warn the funding in Graham-Cassidy is inadequate. The coverage gaps will hit the nation's poor the hardest, as AARP said this week.

"By and large, returning the power to the states is something [I want] it to lead to," Rubio said Wednesday. He also said he doesn't think Republicans and Democrats will be able to devise "bipartisan" solutions to fix Obamacare, which still leaves 27 million people without insurance and loads more with extremely high insurance premiums.

No other developed nation forces its citizens to pay so much for such substandard levels of care, which is why increasing numbers of Democrats have begun to push the nation to adopt some sort of single-payer health-care plan, just like every other developed nation. In 2015, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Commonwealth Fund compared the U.S. health system to 12 other developed nations: Americans paid remarkably more money for health care but still had the highest levels of infant mortality, chronic health conditions in the elderly, and obesity, as well as the lowest life-expectancy rates. The idea that Republicans transparently want to make the U.S. health-care system more expensive is aneurism-inducing.

But, hey, at least we aren't in Arizona or Alaska: Health-care costs for the elderly and poor in those states could jump $22,074 and $31,790, respectively.