Senate GOP health care bill would be devastating to Oregon, Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley say

Senate GOP health care bill would be devastating to Oregon, Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley say


By:  Sherri Buri McDonald

Oregon leaders on Monday were struggling to understand all the effects the proposed U.S. Senate Republicans’ health care bill would have on the state, but initial estimates are grim.

If the cost-cutting bill were enacted, 22 million more Americans would be uninsured in 2026 than under current law, according to a Congressional Budget Office report released Monday.

Just how many of those would be in Oregon wasn’t immediately available, although it appeared that, ultimately, tens of thousands of low-income Oregonians might lose the health care coverage they now receive through the Oregon Health Plan, Oregon’s version of the federal Medicaid program.

But other possible impacts of the bill began to come into clearer focus on Monday, according to calculations of the Senate Joint Economic Committee, based on the CBO report.

Next year, premiums for private health insurance in Oregon urban areas obtained through the state’s health insurance exchange would increase by an average of $749 a year.

135,402 Oregonians would lose private health insurance coverage next year.

Oregon hospitals next year would face an increase of $121.9 million in uncompensated care they provide to uninsured patients. That’s based on an estimate that each additional uninsured person costs local hospitals $900 a year, according to the Joint Economic Committee. Such patients seek hospital care that goes unpaid.

A big question mark is what would happen to Medicaid, the government health plan for low-­income and disabled people.

The Senate bill would cut Medicaid and phase out by 2024 the extra money the Affordable Care Act provided to states such as Oregon that under President Obama expanded Medicaid coverage to more people.

About 375,000 Oregonians receive Oregon Health Plan coverage through the Medicaid expansion, including 40,000 Lane County residents, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

As of May, a total of 1,063,965 Oregonians received Oregon Health Plan coverage, including 101,414 Lane County residents, OHA figures show.

In a conference call with reporters on Friday, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, said the Senate Republicans’ bill would reduce by about a third federal reimbursements for the Medicaid expansion group.

“That is a major hit on our Medicaid expansion,” he said. “It’s going to mean that thousands of Oregonians are going to lose coverage because there won’t be dollars to serve them.”

The cuts would be especially hard on rural Oregon, where nearly four in 10 residents rely on the Oregon Health Plan for their care, Wyden said.

The OHA is analyzing the bill’s potential effects on Oregon, including determining whether a provision in the bill could thwart recently passed state legislation that would tax so-called “providers,” such as hospitals and health insurers, to raise more money to pay for the Oregon Health Plan.

The state analysis will be available Tuesday or Wednesday, state health authority spokesman Robb Cowie said.

Like the House GOP’s bill, which passed narrowly May 6, the Senate version aims to make good on President Trump’s promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare. Trump and the GOP want to cut federal spending on healthcare.

Wyden and Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley said Monday the Senate bill would be devastating.

“Here is a Republican health proposal that is going to hit millions of working people and seniors like a wrecking ball,” Wyden said Monday.

The bill would cut $772 billion from Medicaid by 2026, the CBO estimated.

“Cuts of this magnitude will rip through the fabric of American society,” Wyden said.

“It’s going to threaten nursing home care for seniors, opioid treatment, services for people with disabilities, and basic health needs that people need to live and thrive in their daily lives,” he said.

Millions more Americans would face higher health insurance premiums, the report said.

The bill also would reduce the federal deficit by $321 billion by 2026, the CBO estimated.

“President Trump infamously called the House health care bill ‘mean,’ ” Merkley said. “If that bill was mean, this one is downright diabolical.”