264,000 Mass. residents would lose health coverage under Senate bill, Baker says
Governor Charlie Baker warned Monday that the US Senate Republicans’ sweeping health care proposal would cost Massachusetts more than $8.2 billion and cause 264,000 residents to lose their health insurance coverage by 2025.
The families and individuals who would lose coverage “are among our lowest-income residents,” the governor said in a letter to the state’s congressional delegation.
“Our analysis indicates that the [bill] would increasingly strain the state’s fiscal resources, result in greater numbers of individuals without insurance, and destabilize the commercial insurance market,” Baker said.
His comments came as Senate Republicans weigh their health care bill, which closely mirrors a bill that passed in the House. Both versions of the legislation would make deep cuts in Medicaid, the federal program that pays for medical services for the poor and people with disabilities.
The Congressional Budget Office said Monday that the Senate bill would cause about 22 million Americans to become uninsured in the next decade, about 1 million fewer than the number who would lose coverage under the House bill.
Baker, a Republican in a state that leans Democratic, has been a frequent critic of his party’s recent efforts to reshape the health care system. President Trump and Republicans in Congress have vowed to dismantle President Obama’s signature health care law, the Affordable Care Act. They blame the law for imposing expensive mandates and say their health care plan will cut costs and give consumers more choice.
The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, allowed millions of Americans to gain health coverage through Medicaid and private insurance plans.
Baker, speaking to reporters Monday at the State House, expressed dismay at Congress’s efforts to repeal the law.
“I’m disappointed because it’s not bipartisan,” he said. “I’m disappointed because there doesn’t seem to be a lot of interest in focusing on the things that would actually fix the many things that Republicans and Democrats both agree are wrong with the Affordable Care Act. And I’m extremely worried about what the consequences for hundreds of thousands of people here in the Commonwealth of Mass. would be if something like the Senate bill were to pass.”
In his letter, the governor said the negative effects of the Senate bill will increase substantially starting in three years.
“In 2020, the Commonwealth would lose $907 million, increasing to $1.7 billion in 2024,” he said.
Baker made similar remarks about the House bill in March, estimating it would cost the state between $1.1 billion and $1.9 billion per year of federal Medicaid funds, and would threaten coverage for about 300,000 people on Medicaid.
While opinions about Obamacare are mixed across the country, politicians, business leaders, and consumer advocates in Massachusetts are heavily opposed to a wholesale gutting of the existing health care law.
Andrew Dreyfus, chief executive of the state’s largest commercial health insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, said congressional Republicans’ plan to cut hundreds of billions of dollars from Medicaid would create ripple effects throughout the industry.
“We can’t support the Senate bill,” Dreyfus said in an interview Monday. “It would destabilize important health care provider groups that serve Medicaid patients. It could harm plans that offer Medicaid. . . . It would likely cause hospitals and physicians to seek higher payment rates from commercial plans because they’d be losing even more money than they do today.”
About 1.9 million people in Massachusetts are covered by Medicaid, known here as MassHealth. Many of them gained coverage when the Affordable Care Act broadened eligibility for the program.
Hospitals also oppose the Senate legislation, arguing it would raise costs for patients and increase the amount of uncompensated care hospitals must provide.
“This bill would destabilize the health care system in our Commonwealth,” Lynn Nicholas, president of the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association, said in a statement after the Senate bill was unveiled Thursday.