Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan at a news conference at Concord Hospital, on March 13, 2017

Mar 13, 2017 3:17 PM

Shaheen: GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare 'a real disaster' for NH


CONCORD – New Hampshire’s two U.S. senators teamed up on Monday to take aim at the Republican plan to repeal and replace the federal health care law.

At a joint news conference at Concord Hospital, Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen called a bill by U.S. House Republican leadership, known formally as the American Health Care Act, “a real disaster for people in New Hampshire.”

And fellow Democrat Sen. Maggie Hassan called the GOP plan’s phasing out of the Medicaid Expansion program “the height of irresponsibility.”

Monday afternoon, hours after the two senators teamed up, a much-anticipated Congressional Budget Office analysis suggested that roughly 24 million more people would be uninsured over the next decade if the Republican health care plan becomes law.

The non-partisan CBO report could hurt the GOP’s chances of passing their repeal and replace measure through the U.S. House in the coming weeks.

Responding to the CBO report, Ryan said “I recognize and appreciate concerns about making sure people have access to coverage. Under Obamacare, we have seen how government-mandated coverage does not equal access to care, and now the law is collapsing. Our plan is not about forcing people to buy expensive, one-size-fits-all coverage.”

And he touted that “this report confirms that the American Health Care Act will lower premiums and improve access to quality, affordable care. CBO also finds that this legislation will provide massive tax relief, dramatically reduce the deficit, and make the most fundamental entitlement reform in more than a generation.”

Shaheen and Hassan were joined by hospital officials, health care providers, and recovery advocates at the news conference, which was held in the hospital’s main lobby. It’s the latest in a series of joint events in New Hampshire by Shaheen and Hassan to highlight what they say will be the negative consequences for Granite Staters if the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, is repealed.

Shaheen zeroed in on House Speaker Paul Ryan’s plan, which is backed by President Donald Trump, saying “it decimates Medicaid. It talks about turning it into a block grant of per capita program. It slashes coverage for drug treatment. We know that we are facing a challenge from the heroin and opioid epidemic and so many people are getting their treatment coverage through the expansion of Medicaid. That would be dramatically affected.”

Shaheen also said the bill would increase costs for seniors while reducing costs for the wealthy. And she also railed against how the plan would initially defund Planned Parenthood.

New Hampshire's senior U.S. senator said the 118,000 people in the state could possibly lose their health coverage if the federal health care law is repealed.

Hassan declared that “Trumpcare is clearly the wrong approach.”

And discussing the repeal of Medicaid expansion, which currently provides health insurance for more than 50,000 New Hampshire residents, Hassan said the new measure “would in fact repeal it. That takes health insurance out of reach for thousands of Granite States.”

“Medicaid Expansion right now is a lifeline for thousands in the Granite State and to take that lifeline away is the height of irresponsibility and it is unconscionable,” she added.

Both senators teamed up earlier Monday at a round table discussion on the state’s heroin and opioid epidemic with first responders and recovery and treatment officials. The event was held at the Laconia Police Department.

In Concord, Hassan charged the GOP plan “would pull us backward and hurt our efforts to combat the substance misuse crisis.”

"Medicaid expansion is a lifeline. And to take that lifeline away is the height of irresponsibility and it is unconscionable,” she added.

Shaheen also criticized the proposed block grants to states that would replace current federal funding for Medicaid expansion.

Asked if she could accept block grants, Shaheen answered “not a block grant that’s going to cap payment and reduce the amount of money that the state gets to cover health care. I think you ought to ask Gov. Sununu who he plans to repeal coverage for under that reduced block grant that’s being proposed.”

And Shaheen says she’ll soon meet with New Hampshire’s first Republican governor in a decade to discuss the future of Medicaid expansion.

“We have a meeting that we have to reschedule,” she told reporters.

Last week Sununu told reporters that he’s a big supporter of repealing and replacing Obamacare, but added “we have some concerns (with the U.S. House Republican health care plan). There’s no doubt about it.”

WATCH/READ: Sununu says he has 'some concerns' about GOP health care plan

While Sununu said he supports block grants to the states, he emphasized that “we need to make sure that the state has flexibility in what we’re going to do, the state has some say in making sure we can design a system that meets the needs of our citizens. There are parts of this bill that don’t necessarily incorporate that.”

Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan hold a round table discussion at the Laconia Police Department on the heroin and opioid epidemic, on March 13, 2017

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