Harborview could lose $627 million annually under GOP health care bill

KING 5's Natalie Brand reports.

Harborview Medical Center in Seattle could lose $627 million in annual federal money by 2026 if the health care act passed by the House of Representatives becomes law in its current form, the hospital's executive director said Friday. The bill removes many of the features of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Paul Hayes made the statement during joint press conference with Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.

Hayes said the projected lost revenue comes from a combination of several proposed cuts including cuts to Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.

"We are concerned, very concerned, about the reduction of health insurance coverage for those who have had coverage for the first time in their lives under the Affordable Care Act," said Hayes. "They will likely need to find, or delay, or avoid providing and having routine health care (without the ACA).

Republicans narrowly passed the bill by a 217-213 vote - with 20 GOP defections. It now goes to the Senate but is expected to face significant changes to get passed there. 

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), the Chairman of the Senate Health Committee, has indicated Republican Senators will write their own version of the bill and "take the time to get it right." 

Washington's senior Senator Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat on the HELP Committee, didn't express much optimism on Friday that a bi-partisan process will play out in the weeks ahead. 

"We have said repeatedly take repeal off the table, and we’re happy to work with you on the challenges moving forward. They’ve refused to do that, and they’re not asking us for our input," Murray said during a press conference Friday. 

Washington Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) sits on the Senate Finance committee that handles the Medicare and Medicaid components of the bill.

"We are so befuddled why House Republicans would want to dismantle and cut Medicaid, particularly after President Trump promised he would not cut Medicaid," said Cantwell at the joint press conference.

Cantwell worries that the House version of the bill will cost shift to hospitals and states, impacting both the health and economy of the state. 

"I keep saying innovate. Don’t cap Medicaid and basically leave harborview high and dry or the state high and drive," said Cantwell of her advice to her Republican colleagues. 

"We’ve said to them, let’s take these provisions in the Act that are doing really well to drive affordable care and move them more rapidly throughout your states. Your Republican governors are agreeing on this, let’s keep doing that as a way to drive more change into the system."

On the other side of the debate, Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the number four ranking Republican in the House penned an OpEd in the Washington Post titled: "My son has a pre-existing condition. He's one of the reasons I voted for the AHCA." 

McMorris Rodgers in the piece calls the American Health Care Act "a major improvement because a federal one size fits all approach to health care isn't the answer."

"States know better than the federal government how to allocate and manage resources to address the needs of their people," McMorris Rodgers continues in the OpEd.

However, Paul Hayes of Harborview worries the state doesn't have the funding that would be required to make up the shortfall.

"The state doesn't have the significant means that I'm aware of, when you think about the McCleary Act and the other competing priorities that they're wrestling with," said Hayes.

Hayes said for now all he can do is track the latest developments from D.C. 

"What I hold onto is maybe there may be some modification," he said of the Senate version. 

The House bill would end the Obama law's fines on people who don't purchase policies and erase its taxes on health industry businesses and higher-earning people. It would dilute Obama's consumer-friendly insurance coverage requirements, like letting states permit insurers to charge higher premiums for customers with pre-existing medical conditions.

The measure would replace Obama's federal subsidies for lower-income insurance buyers with tax credits geared to consumers' ages. And it would cut Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor and disabled, including ending extra federal payments 31 states are accepting to expand Medicaid to cover more people.

On Friday, critics of the legislation were using the "IAmAPreexistingCondition" hashtag on Twitter to express worries that the bill would deny coverage to people with serious illnesses like cancer or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee slammed Congress' vote Thursday, saying, "it will kick people off of their health insurance, Democrats and Republicans alike."
   
Eight of the state's House delegation voted against the measure: all six Democrats, and two Republicans, Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dave Reichert. Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers voted for it. Republican Rep. Dan Newhouse was not in D.C. for the vote because he was caring for his sick wife, but said in a statement on his website that he supports repealing the current law and was happy that the House measure has moved to the Senate.


  

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