labor Unions Rip Senate’s Obamacare-Repeal Move
Several American labor unions reacted angrily to the Senate’s vote July 25 to take yet another crack at dismantling Obamacare. AFSCME President Lee Saunders called the vote “morally indefensible,” while Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers said it was “cruel and heartless.”
“We don't need a Wealth Care bill!” the International Association of Machinists posted on Twitter.
Vice President Mike Pence broke a 50-50 tie after two Republicans—Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska—joined the Democrats and independents on voting against a procedural measure to consider legislation on the issue. No specific bill is on the floor yet, but the measure the House passed in May and previous bills introduced in the Senate all included eliminating Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid; converting Medicaid to a finite block grant to states; cutting subsidies that help people buy insurance and pay the costs of deductibles and copayments; letting insurance companies sell policies with extremely minimal coverage; and massive tax cuts for the rich.
“Under any of the versions being considered, this legislation will result in tens of millions of Americans losing access to affordable health care, deep cuts in services for seniors and people with disabilities, and hundreds of thousands of jobs lost,” 1199SEIU President George Gresham said in a statement.
A graphic the AFL-CIO posted online showed that the year’s previous bills would have cut off health insurance for 22 to 24 million people—and simply repealing the Affordable Care Act, as President Donald Trump has advocated, would cut off 32 million. The measures would have raised premiums by 20%, cut Medicaid by $772 to $880 billion, and cut taxes on the rich by $541 to $664 billion.
“The U.S. Senate has just moved one step closer to taking insurance away from tens of millions of people and gutting Medicaid, dealing a devastating blow to working families that would exact a steep human cost—all to pay for more tax cuts for the wealthy,” Saunders said in a statement. “Repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act is both morally indefensible and deeply unpopular. That’s why the Senate has done this in a way that has degraded the process – without hearings and without transparency, forcing a vote on the ‘motion to proceed’ before anyone knows what bill we’re actually proceeding to.”
Weingarten focused on Republican John McCain, just diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor, who flew in from Arizona to vote for the motion and then said afterward that he would “not vote for this bill as it is today.”
“Sen. John McCain is an American war hero who will get, and should get, the best health care our country can provide,” she said in a statement. “The debate about health care should be about ensuring all Americans have that same standard of care. That doesn’t start by repealing Obamacare.”
Any bill to weaken Obamacare would have “huge implications for hospitals and patients in New York,” said United University Professions President Frederick E. Kowal. He said the State University of New York’s public teaching hospitals in Brooklyn, Stony Brook and Syracuse, where the union represents faculty, already treat thousands of patients with little or no health insurance coverage and “will be severely impacted if the Senate moves forward with this haphazard approach to health-care reform.”
National Nurses United contended that Democrats should acknowledge concerns about the Affordable Care Act’s shortcomings “as a signal to push for real, transformative reform, an improved and expanded Medicare for all.”
“No one should let Democrats off the hook here,” NNU Co-President Jean Ross said in a statement. The ACA, the union says, contained important reforms, but almost 10% of Americans still don't have health insurance, the average deductible for a single person getting insurance from their employer is almost $1,500, and an estimated 63 million people aged 19 to 64 didn’t get care they needed because of its cost. All those numbers would increase under the GOP bills, it projects.
“Just because the Republicans are pushing a plan that is far worse doesn’t mean that millions don’t continue to face a daily crisis today with their health,” Ross said. “Democrats need to seize the moment and lead the way for the systemic change we need.”