Republicans’ ‘shift and shaft’ scheme jeopardizes health coverage. Sad!

The plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act just hit a major barrier: Reality.

The numbers are in and they show what many people have known all along. Republican efforts to “repeal and replace” Obamacare are nothing more than a scam that would take health coverage away from millions of people, shift billions of dollars in costs onto states and destabilize the insurance market — all to pay for massive tax cuts for the wealthiest.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released its analysis of the bill Monday. Twenty-four million people would lose health coverage by 2026, 14 million next year alone. Medicaid would be cut by $880 billion, destroying the state-federal partnership that provides health care to children, seniors, people with disabilities and people struggling with substance use.

And while Republicans and the Trump White House have been attacking the CBO, it turns out that their internal analysis projected even bigger losses.

As Politico reported this week, the White House analysis found that the bill would cost 26 million people their health coverage. Right down the line, the Trump administration found that the impact of the American Health Care Act would be even worse than what the CBO found.

Even by the more cautious CBO analysis, 52 million Americans will be without health coverage by 2026. The White House found it would be 54 million.

From left, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer speak to the media Monday. Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

U.S. Sen. Angus King predicted the carnage.

“I don’t think there is much question that this proposal will hammer Maine and my people, and I can’t stand for that,” King said.

King went on to say that the terrible bill would tear insurance out from under people to give tax breaks to people who make more than $250,000 a year.

As the CBO confirmed, the AHCA would hit Maine particularly hard by driving up health care costs for low-income people and seniors.

Beyond the headlines of lost coverage, the bill also includes a number of gimmicks that will ratchet down federal support for Medicaid.

Medicaid insures about 268,000 people in Maine, and about 79,000 rely on Obamacare subsidies to purchase health care through the exchanges. About 114,000 low-income children in Maine are covered by Medicaid.

They’re all at risk.

Medicaid, despite near constant attacks from Republicans such as Gov. Paul LePage, remains popular. Voters recognize the program’s value and its critical role in helping to keep people healthy.

And voters also agree that people shouldn’t be kicked out of the program. In a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 69 percent of Republicans, 84 percent of independents and 95 percent of Democrats agreed that Medicaid shouldn’t be cut for states that have expanded access.

As Kaiser found, more than 50 percent of people have some sort of personal connection to Medicaid, which is called MaineCare in Maine. And two-thirds of people want to keep the program as it is today.

Despite its popular support, the Republican plan would destroy the program with convoluted funding mechanisms that are designed to starve the program over time and kick people off.

The so called “per capita cap” or block grant programs are built to appear reasonable. But the devil — and I mean devil — is definitely in the detail.

These shell games are cuts. Period.

The Washington Post eloquently described it this way: “The proposed American Health Care Act would break with the government’s half-century old compact with the states in helping to finance Medicaid, which covers 68 million low-income people, including children, pregnant women and those who are elderly or disabled.”

The Republican health care plan punishes low-income people. It punishes the elderly and children. It punishes people with disabilities and living in nursing homes. All to pay for massive tax cuts for the wealthy.

During his campaign, President Trump promised that he wouldn’t support any plan that would cut Medicaid or Medicare and that he wouldn’t take health insurance away from anyone.

Clearly he was lying. It’s not the first and certainly not the last time. But it could very well be one of the most consequential.

While we all laugh about the idea that our microwave oven is spying (and the garbage disposal is destroying the evidence. SAD!) on us for President Obama, taking health care away from 52 million people is a death sentence for the “crime” of being poor or older.

The Republican health care plan would be devastating to Maine, its people and its economy. King nailed it: “The pattern is shift and shaft: Shift the cost and shaft the people who need coverage.”

David Farmer

About David Farmer

David Farmer is a political and media consultant in Portland, where he lives with his wife and two children. He was senior adviser to Democrat Mike Michaud’s campaign for governor and a longtime journalist. You can reach him at