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Leahy And Sanders: Unveiled GOP Health Care Bill Could Leave Millions Without Coverage

State officials are ramping up their outreach efforts to alert Vermonters that this Friday is the deadline to sign up for the Affordable Care Act
Vermont's two U.S. senators, Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders both strongly oppose the new GOP Senate health care plan

In many respects, the new health care bill proposed in the U.S. Senate follows the framework of a  GOP plan that passsed in the House last month.

It proposes sharp cuts to the Medicaid program and it allows insurance companies to determine their rates based on the age and health condition of the person seeking the policy.

Who Wins, Who Loses With Senate Health Care Bill from NPR

It also repeals an income tax surcharge on wealthier people that was used to help subsidize care for low and middle income individuals under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Sen. Patrick Leahy is very critical of the legislation and the secret process that he says Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell used to develop this bill.

"It's really a cruel and cynical hoax,” said Leahy. “We all want to improve health insurance but that's not what this does, it's a tax cut for the rich, frees up money for a massive tax cut for the wealthiest Americans but it's going to hurt a lot of average Americans."   

In a videoposted by his office, Sen. Bernie Sanders said the bill would force millions of people to lose their health care coverage. He also doubts that there's very much public support for the key elements of the legislation.

"It's really a cruel and cynical hoax, it's a tax cut for the rich, but it's going to hurt a lot of average Americans." - Sen. Patrick Leahy

"People don't think that we should throw millions of people off of Medicaid, substantially raise premiums for older workers, de-fund Planned Parenthood while making the very richest people in this country even richer," said Sanders. 

Gov. Phil Scott has also expressed strong concern about the bill. The governor says roughly 25 percent of all Vermonters take part in programs funded by Medicaid and he says the GOP bill will put Vermont state government in a very difficult position: take on additional budget burdens, or allow thousands of people to lose their health care coverage.

"We took advantage of it, the expansion of Medicaid, so we're very reliant and any changes to Medicaid will be an issue for us and could be detrimental so we have to protect our citizens and this is going to be very, very difficult for us," said Scott.   

The Senate is expected to vote on this bill before it takes its annual Independence Day recess.

See Sanders' video about the GOP health care bill below:

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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