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GOP healthcare bill bad deal for Tennesseans

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Len Assante

After the horrible Republican AHCA healthcare bill barely passed the GOP-controlled House, it was declared "dead on arrival" by some in the Senate. If only. The Senate bill that emerged after weeks of secret planning by 13 white, male, Republican senators (including our own Lamar Alexander, who seems to have long forgotten his moderate roots) is just as bad as the House version - a bill even Donald Trump called "mean." Let's take a look at just how bad the ironically-named "Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017" is for most Tennesseans and what we all can do to stop it.

The bill is going to hurt people with pre-existing conditions. It will allow insurers to offer weak plans by allowing states to opt out of providing essential health benefits.

Millions of people are going to lose coverage. The bill ends the ACA's Medicaid expansion and makes even deeper program cuts than the House version.

People's deductibles and co-pays will go up. The Republican bill will provide people with skimpier plans with fewer protections. This will cause many people to pay more out of pocket for less coverage.

The bill gives billions in tax breaks to the wealthy and special interests. It amounts to a massive transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich.

The consequences for women's health are dangerous. It cuts funding for essential health services for women and could eliminate the guarantee of maternity coverage. In fact, the word "women" does not even appear once in the entire bill!

According to the Tennessee Hospital Association, which opposes the bill, it will lead to more closures of rural hospitals in the state.

The Senate plans to vote on the bill one week after it was made public and after no committee hearings. This is NOT how our government is supposed to work and in major contrast to 2009 when Republicans, including Sen. Corker held many town hall meetings on health care, and said they were a great thing that awakened the country. Now his party is writing a bill that affects us all, and he has held no town halls. Senator Alexander, who helped write the thing also has held no town halls.

According to the Center for American Progress, the bill will cause an average premium increase of $7,733.00 per enrollee by 2026, and will cost 578,900 Tennesseans their insurance, including 63,800 in Diane Black's district. To top it off, throw in an additional 501-767 additional deaths in Tennessee by 2026 due to this travesty.

The Senate Republican's version is just as cruel as the House GOP's version. It kicks millions of Americans off of their health care, raises out-of-pocket costs and reduces the quality of coverage, all in order to give tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations. No consumer or medial groups I could find support it. It certainly does not fix the flaws of Obamacare and in fact makes things much worse. It must be stopped. Lives are at stake.

So, what can you do about it?

Tell Senators Corker and Alexander to vote no. Tell them enough is enough. It is easier than ever to do so. Call Senator Corker's office at (615) 279-8125 and Senator Alexander's office at (615) 736-5129. Tell the staffer who answers that you are opposed to the passage of the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017. You can fax their offices at (615) 279-9488 or (615) 269-4803 respectively. Smartphone users can download a free app called Countable which allows you to "vote" on your support for any bill before Congress and then transmits that data to your representatives. If you are text message user, text "resist" to 50409 and follow the prompts you receive in return. This tool crafts personalized letters to your representatives and submits them via fax to their DC offices.

Republicans have cast their bill as a way to increase choice and quality of care for Americans. In fact, it will do the opposite. I honestly don't see how 20+ million people losing insurance, millions more ending up with less coverage, and millions more paying more money increases choice and quality. I've heard of fuzzy math, but that's just nuts. Tell them no. Tell them now.

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