What will be the impact of the Senate GOP health care bill on Wisconsin? Cruel and devastating. The nonpartisan Urban Institute reports that Wisconsin gets slammed willfully: Under the Senate bill 286,000 more Wisconsinites would be uninsured – a 73 percent increase, and Wisconsin would lose $1.2 billion (22 percent) of its federal Medicaid and Affordable Care Act (ACA) funding, including tax credits and cost-sharing reductions. And, the respected Kaiser Family Foundation said: Under the Senate bill the average monthly premium for the Silver Plan (standard on the ACA exchange) in Wisconsin would increase by $418 – 78 percent higher.

However, Wisconsin GOP Senator Ron Johnson, head in sand, said: “I just don’t really see Wisconsin particularly affected by any cuts. We’re not going to cut anything.” But Kaiser Health News reported: “Some of the (GOP) messaging on the (Senate) bill seems nonsensical … (e.g.) the contention that $772 billion squeezed out of Medicaid isn’t a cut”. It gets worse.

The Senate GOP health care bill is mean. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said: Under the Senate bill the number of uninsured would increase by 22 million, including 15 million fewer on Medicaid! The CBO later spelled out “that the GOP legislation would squeeze federal Medicaid spending by 35 percent by the end of two decades, compared with current law” (Washington Post). There’s more.

The Senate GOP bill would result in draconian cuts and changes in federal tax credits to buy private insurance. And, federal help to pay out-of- pocket cuts would be eliminated by 2020. There would be much higher insurance costs for the elderly, sick or those with pre-existing conditions; many would have trouble even buying coverage, particularly in rural areas; states would be allowed to opt out of prohibitions on annual and lifetime limits by private health insurance; and hundreds of billions in tax cuts for the rich (the top 0.1 percent would get an average tax cut of $250,000).

No wonder Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and a handful of GOP senators wrote the health legislation in secret, with no Senate committee hearings. No input from doctors, hospitals or patient advocacy groups. And, all the while Trump keeps trying to sabotage the ACA, e.g., threatening not to pay for cost-sharing reductions. Finally, McConnell and his cronies hid the pain in the bill until after the 2018 elections and beyond. Cover to preserve the GOP majority.

Yes, there is much to be appalled and ashamed about the Senate GOP health legislation. And, Senator Johnson was correct in complaining about the secrecy and rush to pass a bill. But is this mere positioning to bargain for a final bill more cruel and draconian? Johnson thinks the bill “relies too heavily on government spending”, supports harsh Medicaid cuts and previously opposed ACA taxes on the rich that paid for giving coverage to the uninsured. He wants to be a “player”. Johnson has a choice: Act like a principled conservative and vote no, or like a mean politician and vote yes. Slamming Wisconsin.

Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C. for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 – 2009.

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