Local health care leaders are joining a chorus of criticism against a proposed Senate bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Officials associated with Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland and Tri-Cities Community Health in Pasco said the bill would hurt the most vulnerable in the community, burden hospitals and have other significant consequences.
“It’s going to cause ripple effects all over the place,” said Lane Savitch, chief operating officer of the Southeast Washington Service Area in Providence St. Joseph Health’s Eastern Washington/Montana region. Kadlec is part of the Providence system.
Ralph Hill, interim chief executive officer of Tri-Cities Community Health, added that the bill would “create more of a haves and have nots world.”
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The proposal “doesn’t help education, it doesn’t help employment, it doesn’t help insurance,” he said. “I’m not sure what it helps.”
The House narrowly passed its own repeal and replace bill this spring.
The Senate version was headed to a vote this week, but Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday opted to delay until after the July 4 recess.
That decision came amid mounting criticism of the bill, which would cut subsidies that help people purchase marketplace insurance, phase out Medicaid expansion and slash funding for Medicaid while rolling back many of Obamacare’s insurance mandates and tax increases. An estimated 22 million people fewer people would have coverage by 2026 under the bill.
Many health-related groups have been vocal critics of the legislation, from the American Medical Association to AARP.
Savitch said that while Obamacare emphasized primacy care, preventive care and health maintenance, “what we see in the House and Senate bills is a dramatic move away from that approach.”
That means greater burden on hospital emergency rooms, increased costs, poorer outcomes for patients and other issues, he said.
Obamacare wasn’t perfect health care policy and has plenty of room for improvement, but “that’s not to say they should throw it all out,” Savitch said.
“I look at this process, and it’s just completely political. Nobody is looking at what’s best for the American public and finding middle ground,” he said.
Hill said lack of access to health care affects everything from education to employment to generational health and well-being. It’s bad for society, he said.
“The U.S. has 35th standing in health care outcomes, when you look at the rest of the world. This is a step toward making us go lower in that scale, instead of higher,” he said.
McClatchy’s Washington bureau and the Washington Post contributed to this story.