State leaders stand ready to fight health care repeal or replacement

Photo courtesy of the Governor’s Office

Even as the Republican health care bill appears to be on life support, New York state officials say that they are prepared to take swift legal action should it be passed in Congress.

Meanwhile, two recent polls show that the plan is still largely unpopular with voters.

The Better Care Reconciliation Act seems to be stalled after Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, decided to join Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky., and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, in opposing the legislation, meaning that it does not currently have enough votes to pass. Five moderate Republican senators have also stated they are undecided about the bill, but did not pledge to oppose it.

Senate Republicans are reportedly exploring other options such as holding a floor vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act without a plan to replace it. This option would reportedly allow a two year delay before the ACA is completely repealed to give Republicans time to figure out a replacement plan.

Democrats and some moderate Republicans have criticized the BCRA for being too cruel as it would deeply cut Medicaid and leave millions uninsured. The Congressional Budget Office projected it would cause 22 million Americans to lose insurance coverage.

The BCRA would have also contained nearly $1 trillion in tax cuts with 60 percent of those cuts going to the top 20 percent of income earners.

A poll conducted by Quinnipiac University on June 28 found that only 16 percent of voters nationwide approve of the senate plan.

Closer to home, a poll conducted by Siena College found that 65 percent of New York voters want the ACA kept and improved while 37 percent want a plan to repeal and replace it, however, just 12 percent want a bill similar to the House bill with only Republican support.

On Monday, Cuomo and Schneiderman appeared with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, at a rally at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City to pledge to fight for the ACA.

The rally was attended by representatives from health care unions like the 1199SEIU United Health Care Workers East; the Greater NY Hospital Association; Health Care Association of New York State; New York State Nurses Association; as well as several state legislators from the state Senate and assembly.

Cuomo attacked the BCRA plan saying it was “not smart” and accused conservatives of allowing less fortunate Americans to be harmed just to score a “political victory.”

“They know it’s not smart,” said Cuomo, “they know it’s wrong, but they’re putting their politics first. They’re putting politics over policy.”

Photo courtesy of the Governor’s Office
Governor Andrew Cuomo, at podium, and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Monday stood together to announce that, if the House or Senate health care bill is signed into law, New York state will bring a lawsuit challenging the bill’s constitutionality. Cuomo and Schneiderman made the announcement at an event at Mount Sinai Hospital, encouraging members of New York’s Congressional delegation to stand against the bill. Should it pass and be signed into law, New York will challenge the Republican health care bill in court on the basis of several constitutional defects, including the placement of unconstitutional conditions on federal dollars used for health care.

According to Cuomo, the BCRA would mean that three million New Yorkers would lose health coverage.

The health care industry also accounts for 20 percent of the state economy and severe cuts would cause hospitals to go bankrupt and put 1.2 million jobs at risk.

Cuomo also blasted the so-called ‘Faso-Collins’ Amendment which was originally part of the healthcare bill passed by the house in March.

The amendment was introduced by New York Representatives Chris Collins and John Faso as part of a comprehensive package of amendments added to the house health care plan. When the Senate revealed the BCRA in June, the ‘Faso-Collins’ Amendment was still intact.

The amendment would only apply to New York state and would shift $2.3 billion in Medicaid costs from New York counties and require that the state pay instead.

Critics of the amendment have pointed out that taxpayers would still be paying the $2.3 billion whether they paid the state or the county.

Cuomo called the Faso-Collins amendment “an old fashioned con game” and compared Collins and Faso to hustlers on the street corner.

“Faso and Collins, these are the guys that used to be on the corner with the card game,” said Cuomo. “Remember those guys? They’d be moving the cards back and forth or they’d be hiding the pea under the shell, back and forth, and they’d let you look and you’d look and you got it right the first time. And then you got it right the second time. And then you put your money on the table and you got it wrong the third time. That’s Faso-Collins.”

Cuomo has vocally opposed the amendment for months and has suggested state lawmakers introduce a “Faso-Collins tax” and tax counties to make up the difference.

At the end of his speech, Cuomo announced that Schneiderman was prepared to file a lawsuit against the federal government if Congress passed the BCRA.

After greeting the crowd, Schneiderman touted his history of litigation against Trump and the federal government.

Schneiderman has filed multiple lawsuits against the Trump administration. He challenged the constitutionality of the travel ban; sued the Department of Education for abandoning critical student protections against predatory for-profit colleges; and sued the Department of Energy for not implementing efficiency standards.

“My brothers and sisters, I have developed a bit of a reputation since January as a guy who sues Donald Trump and the federal government,” said Schneiderman. “Always on the merits, and boy, have we got a lot of merits on our side.”

Schneiderman expressed his belief that the BCRA plan is unconstitutional and he affirmed his willingness to challenge the law.

“Let me be clear,” said Schneiderman. “If this inhumane bill ever becomes law, I will go to court to challenge it. I will sue the Trump administration and their congressional allies. To protect New Yorkers, all of us together will bring every lever at our disposal. Because not only is this bill unconscionable, not only is this bill unjust, it is against the law. It is unconstitutional. And we intend to stop it in its tracks and prove that this is still a nation of the rule of law.”

Photo courtesy of the Governor’s Office
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and Assembly Speaker Car Heastie.

Other lawmakers have spoken out against Senate health care proposals this week as well.

On Tuesday, Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, blasted the plan to repeal the ACA without a concrete replacement plan.

“A health care repeal with no replacement isn’t a plan, it’s cut and run,” said Tonko. “Instead of working in a bipartisan way to reduce healthcare premiums, out-of-pocket costs and prescription drug prices, Republicans in Washington and their special interest allies are stuck on an ideological crusade to give tax handouts to the wealthy paid for with massive cuts to America’s safety net including critical services that support our children, the elderly, and the disabled.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-Brooklyn, also blasted the “repeal only” plan and said that it was “in many ways worse” than the BCRA, calling for Republicans to join a “bipartisan compromise” to improve the ACA instead.

“Republicans don’t need to wreak havoc on our healthcare system first in order to get Democrats to the table,” said Schumer. “We’re ready to sit down right now.”

Cuomo spoke at the Brooklyn Health Center on Thursday and admitted that he is still skeptical about the fact that the BCRA is actually dead.

“Now they say that it’s been defeated,” said Cuomo, “I don’t know that it’s been defeated. This initiative is like a snake in the grass, you think it’s been defeated, but sometimes it’s just lying there and you start to move and it jumps up and it bites you.

Watch the full video of the event below.