Casey: GOP health plan heads in ‘wrong direction’

Senator Bob Casey visited Barnes-Kasson Hospital on Thursday to talk about the impacts the Senate GOP's proposed health care plan would have in Susquehanna County. STAFF PHOTO/STACI WILSON

Senator Bob Casey visited Barnes-Kasson Hospital on Thursday to talk about the impacts the Senate GOP’s proposed health care plan would have in Susquehanna County. STAFF PHOTO/STACI WILSON

Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) stopped by Barnes Kasson Hospital in Susquehanna Thursday, July 6, to talk about the implications the Senate GOP’s health care bill – Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) – would have on rural Pennsylvanians.
Casey said the Republican led Senate bill would “decimate” the Medicaid program, citing reports that 15 million people would lose insurance by way of Medicaid over the next 10 years if the bill passed in the U.S. Senate and saying that has the country heading in the “wrong direction.”
“We need to get to a better place,” Casey told a group gathered in the rotunda at the Barnes Kasson Skilled Nursing Facility, and emphasized the need for bipartisan progress on items not working in the Affordable Care Act, frequently referred to as Obamacare.
Casey said the Senate should be focused on “real challenges,” such as the high cost of premiums caused by too little competition and offered up a three-pronged solution.
The senator proposed introducing more competition by offering a public option; increasing the subsidies for those buying insurance in the marketplace; and lowering the cost of prescription drugs through importation – a bill he, along with Sen. Bernie Sanders, has introduced.
Casey said the GOP plan is “really a tax cut bill” offering up savings to the wealthiest 400 families in the United States.
The senator said the impact of the proposed bill would have a negative impact on jobs in the area.
According to a report released Thursday by the senator’s office, 8,366 county residents receive health care through the state’s Medicaid program; and another 1,784 residents purchase insurance through the marketplace.
With BCRA, according to the report, an estimated 2,190 residents could lose health insurance in 2018 whether obtained through Medicaid, the marketplace or employer-sponsored insurance.
In rural counties across the state, Medicaid and related funding makes up about 10 percent of hospitals net revenue. According to Casey, with fewer people insured and higher rates of uncompensated care, about 81 health care jobs in the county could be lost under BCRA by 2026.
Nursing home care would also be jeopardized, according to the report, with the proposed BCRA cuts over the next 10 years.
In the county, 260 residents over the age of 55 received nursing home care because of Medicaid coverage last year. And providers in the county received nearly $8 million in Medicaid spending for nursing home care between July 2015 and June 2016.
In addition to the nursing home care, 167 residents above the age of 55 received Medicaid home and community based services last year, with providers receiving about $3.5 million in Medicaid reimbursements for those services.
Medicaid also supports services to residents with autism and/or intellectual disabilities. In the county, 61 residents received services paid for with the Medicaid funds.
Susquehanna and Lackawanna counties combined received about $48.4 million in Medicaid reimbursements to service providers that deliver care to those with intellectual disabilities. The two counties are part of a joinder that provides mental health and intellectual disability services.
The room, largely filled with medical professionals and supporters, Casey was urged to talk with the Republican senators.
The senator said his GOP counterparts are saying very little. “The silence is kind of telling,” he said. But he added, they also moved forward on this path with the reconciliation vote in January. “By doing that, they say ‘We don’t need you,’” Casey said. “If the bill goes down, that’s the point where we can work together on the real problems. If they took repeal off the table, we could sit down right now.”
In addition the health care, the senator also offered a few comments on other topics, including infrastructure and high-speed internet access.
In Susquehanna County, 66 percent of residents do not have access to high-speed internet, Casey said.
“KIds can’t do homework,” said the senator, noting the disadvantage of of rural students due lack of access compared to their counterparts in more populated area. “It’s small town discrimination.”

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