Washington Republicans on the AHCA: Too soon to tell

At their weekly press conference Monday, state Republican leadership said they expected to see Congressional  Republicans’ health care policy change once it goes through the Senate, and that they would reserve judgement on the bill until after the Congressional Budget Office releases cost and coverage estimates.

Update: The CBO report was released shortly after state Republicans’ press conference.

Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, responded to a questions from Rachel La Corte, Associated Press reporter. She asked about the state’s responsibility in covering health care if Republicans’ plan leads to people losing health care:

“The consensus is that some people will lose health care. Should the state backfill any costs that are related to people losing health care in the state if the repeal and replace plan goes forward?” she said.

Republicans plan to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, which, among other things, is expected to lead to extensive cuts to Medicaid programs.

“As the bill sits now, the expansion population, and that’s mainly what a lot of people are talking about, they will continue at that 90 percent federal coverage,” Schmick said. “That just stays. That’s how the bill sits right now. Now after Jan. 1, 2020 anybody new coming into the Medicaid program will be at our standard 50-50 match.”

“I think it’s a little early to tell, quite frankly,” he said when pressed to answer the original question about whether the state should cover the costs of potential coverage gaps.

According to the Washington Health Care Authority, about 1.9 million Washingtonians use Medicaid to cover their health care costs. And state leaders suggest that the proposed funding cuts would boot about 600,000 people off Medicaid. Gov. Jay Inslee issued a statement, in early March, critical of the Republicans’ plan, called the American Health Care Act. In Inslee’s statement:

The proposed legislation in Congress to repeal Obamacare is not the direction we should be going to meet our country’s health care needs. It will not improve the health or well-being of millions of people who have gained coverage through the Affordable Care Act. This proposal would kick 600,000 Washingtonians off Medicaid unless the state can come up with $1.3 billion — a burden that would be borne entirely by the state’s taxpayers.

The proposal put forth by Congressional Republicans will hurt low-income people, the elderly, people with disabilities and those who need long-term care. This means loss of coverage for people with cancer, diabetes and seniors who are already struggling with costs. These are not scare stories, these are facts.

Congress proposes paying for its plan by giving a tax break to the wealthy and shifting unaffordable costs onto the states

But at the Monday press conference, Schmick said he didn’t have enough information about the potential impact of the bill to judge it. Schmick said he was waiting on the report to come from the CBO. He also indicated that he expects it to change after it’s passed out of the House.

“Once it gets into the Senate, it will have to be bipartisan before it passes out of the Senate,” he said. “I think you’re seeing the first rendition. Are you seeing the final one? I kind of doubt it.”

Schmick did say leaders did not want anyone to lose coverage.

“I don’t think there’s anybody up here that wants to see anyone lose coverage,” he said.

Erin Fenner: erin@washingtonstatewire.com, @erinfenner

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