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GRANITE CITY – U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said today the Senate Republican health care repeal bill will throw 22 million Americans off their health insurance, decimate the Medicaid program, allow insurers to stop offering critical coverage and charge seniors more for their benefits, all in order to finance huge tax cuts to big corporations and the wealthiest individuals.

durbin richardDurbin was joined by hospital and health care leaders at Gateway Regional Medical Center to discuss the local impact of repealing the Affordable Care Act.

“Like the widely unpopular House-passed bill, the Senate measure spells disaster for Illinois,” Durbin said. “Between the health care events I’ve held around the state and the thousands of constituents writing and calling me, the message from Illinoisans has been crystal clear: improve the Affordable Care Act, don’t repeal it. Yet congressional Republicans — including all seven House GOP Illinois representatives — are pushing through a measure that would cripple Illinois’ rural hospitals, schools, families, and economy. Let’s take devastating cuts to Medicaid off the table, tax breaks for the wealthiest corporations and richest Americans off the table, and I will gladly pull up a chair and work to improve health care for all Americans.”

Last week — in the wake of a devastating analysis from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office — Senate Republicans postponed a vote on their repeal bill due to opposition from both moderates and conservatives. While work on the ACA in 2009 and 2010 featured more than 50 hearings, more than 150 Republican amendments and more than a month of committee “markups” to arrive at the final legislation, the Senate Republican leadership has written their healthcare repeal bill in secret — with no input from outside experts, Democrats, or the American public.

The Republican Senate health care repeal bill would impose dramatic cuts to the Medicaid program — including ending Illinois’ Medicaid expansion in 2021. As a result, 650,000 Illinoisans who gained insurance as a result of the Medicaid expansion would be thrown off insurance. In total, Illinois would lose more than $40 billion in federal Medicaid funding over a decade. Those cuts would impose huge new financial burdens on hospitals nationwide, especially critical access hospitals and hospitals in rural communities. The Illinois Hospital Association predicts 60,000 Illinois jobs will be lost as a result of the cuts.

Under the Republican repeal bills, Illinois’ 12th Congressional District could see 59,800 people could lose coverage – doubling the uninsured rate. In Madison County, a 60-year-old making $30,000 would see average premiums increase $4,660, and a 60-year-old making $44,000 would see premiums increase $14,320. By 2020, average premiums would increase 76 percent nationwide. For seniors and rural communities, costs would skyrocket even further. More than 63,000 people have Medicaid in Madison County, including 26,200 children and 13,500 who gained insurance via expansion — and could lose coverage or lose benefits.

In addition, Illinois schools currently receive about $144 million in Medicaid funding each year to provide vision and dental screenings to lower-income children and to provide services for students with disabilities. Last year, Illinois schools used this funding to help provide services for many of the 280,000 Illinois children with disabilities and health care screenings for many of the 1.5 million lower-income Illinois kids with Medicaid.

Both the House and Senate bills allow states to obtain waivers from the “essential health benefits” requirement—allowing insurers to waive any of the 10 currently required benefits (including mental health and substance abuse treatment, maternity/newborn care, hospitalizations, prescription drugs) and could allow employer-sponsored plans to once again impose annual or lifetime limits. This would be especially problematic for people with pre-existing conditions, since the care they need may no longer be covered. In the face of an opioid epidemic claiming 91 lives a day, the GOP plans would undermine coverage for treatment services, crippling our fight against opioid addictions. Both bills also impose an age tax on people over the age of 50, allowing them to be charged five times more than younger people, a large increase over the current 3:1 ratio.

The Senate bill provides a $541 billion tax break for high-income Americans, while ripping health care away from tens of millions.

The list of medical and patient advocacy groups voicing their opposition to the Senate Republican health care repeal bill is growing by the day with the Illinois Health and Hospital Association, the American Hospital Association, American Medical Society, AARP, American Nurses Association, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Academy of Pediatrics, National Women’s Law Center, American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, American Lung Association, American Psychiatric Association, SEIU and Trust for America’s Health among those announcing their opposition.