Earlier this week Governor Chris Sununu joined other leading Republicans in opposing the Senate version of Trumpcare, which would take away healthcare from millions of Americans, abandon people with pre-existing conditions, slash Medicaid, and raise health care costs while at the same time providing tax breaks for high income households and the healthcare industry.
The coalition of organizations behind a “Medicaid Not Millionaires” rally scheduled to take place at the Governor’s office mid-week rejoiced in this news, and postponed the large rally in favor of a smaller delegation to thank the Governor and re-issue our request for a meeting or ongoing health care stakeholder meetings. Health care policy advisor DJ Bettencourt met with the delegation and agreed to look at the calendar for a potential meeting.
Today our organizations sent a follow up letter to Governor Sununu and Mr. Bettencourt reiterating that thank you and meeting request, and additionally highlighting issues with the Senate bill – such as substantial harm to people with preexisting conditions – where Governor Sununu would stand to benefit from further communication with health care stakeholders. Here is the letter:
Date: Fri, Jun 30, 2017 at 1:31 PM
Subject: Health Care Coalition Letter to Governor Sununu on Opposition to BCRA, Next Steps
To: Governor Sununu, DJ Bettencourt, Governor’s Press Office
Friday, June 30, 2017
Dear Governor Sununu,
We are delighted that you listened to the concerns of your constituents and oppose the current version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA). Our organizations welcome this news and thank you for your opposition to a bill that would take away healthcare from millions of Americans, abandon people with pre-existing conditions, slash Medicaid, and raise health care costs while at the same time providing tax breaks for high income households and the healthcare industry.
In particular, we appreciate that your letter to Senate leaders addresses Senate Republicans’ damaging proposal to make deep, permanent cuts to Medicaid. Nearly 20,000 people with disabilities and senior citizens would be impacted by dismantling this five-decades long program, harming their civil and human rights. These cuts would also jeopardize care for 90,000 children in New Hampshire, and downshift enormous costs to the state or cause serious reductions or elimination of services. We agree with you that the Senate proposal would also jeopardize Medicaid expansion and set back the progress New Hampshire has made to combat the opioid crisis.
While we welcome the news of your opposition, we are also eager to have you fully engage in a bipartisan effort to improve America’s health care system. We ask you to:
- Broadcast opposition to the Senate bill. Please send your letter of opposition to Republican Senators who have not yet decided how they will vote on this bill. These politicians need to hear directly from concerned Republican Governors, particularly regarding your statements on protecting Medicaid and Medicaid expansion.
- Share health policy positions of your administration. Please provide constituents with a clear and detailed summary of what current health care programs and consumer protections you will defend when it comes to the health care debate. We note that you oppose the current version as proposed by the Senate, but previously called the House vote a good step forward even though you wouldn’t have voted for the bill. Constituents need to know what elements of health care reform we can count on you to protect in any subsequent bill versions.
- Meet with health care advocates. Please sit down with local health care advocates to have a conversation about the future of healthcare in our country, beyond criticizing the coverage and benefits expansion provided under the Affordable Care Act. Support the efforts of New Hampshire residents to improve our state’s health care system and ensure high quality health care is accessible to all, today and in the future, by working together with us.
With many members of Congress determined to pass a plan which takes healthcare away from 22 million Americans, it truly is important that you work with local health care advocates to fully understand the potential impacts to the Granite State. For example, in your letter you praise the Senate bill for “maintaining preexisting condition protections.”
The Senate bill does not include the MacArthur Amendment which is a part of the House bill that allows insurers to charge people with pre-existing conditions more for coverage. However, it does include waivers that allow insurers to opt-out of covering Essential Health Benefits— many of which are the same as pre-existing conditions: maternity, pre-natal, prescription drugs, mental health, physical therapy, etc. This means that even if people with pre-existing conditions can get coverage, it won’t cover the cost of the treatment for excluded conditions. Instead, patients will need to pay out of pocket. Costs could range from a few dollars for treating high cholesterol with a generic medication to hundreds of thousands of dollars for cancer or a difficult pregnancy. In short, people in this situation will pay more because the Senate bill opens the door to allowing insurers to charge them more—and cover less.
As the American Cancer Society explains, “While the Senate bill preserves the pre-existing condition protections, it allows states to waive the essential health benefits (EHBs) which could render those protections meaningless. Without guaranteed standard benefits, insurance plans would not have to offer the kind of coverage cancer patients need or could make that coverage prohibitively expensive.”
In addition, your office recently supported an amendment to New Hampshire’s HB 469 that would allow New Hampshire to seek federal waivers to provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Additional amendments to ensure that the waiver or grant applications did not jeopardize coverage for pre-existing conditions or essential health benefits (Amendment #2017-2150s); behavioral health care, including mental health services and addiction treatment (Amendment #2017-2149s); coverage for maternity and newborn care (Amendment #2017-2148s); and pre-existing conditions alone (Amendment #2017-2152s) all fell on party lines with Democrats supporting and Republicans opposing. It is important that you meet with health care advocates and learn more about why these provisions were deemed essential health benefits to begin with.
Our organizations had planned to bring a large number of people to your office this week to call on you to take action on health care, but postponed that action to recognize the first step you have taken in the direction of protecting access to quality, affordable health care. We will continue to monitor your statements and actions and are hopeful that you will continue to defend expanded and traditional Medicaid and to stand up for a health care system that meets the needs of our state’s residents.
Too many Granite State families are watching what is happening in Washington, DC with fear in their hearts. As our Governor, we look forward to working with you to protect and expand the health and economic security of our families. We would like to meet with you before August 1st to begin collaboratively working to achieve constructive healthcare policy reforms and to keep Medicaid safe. Our organizations are more than willing to help convene a gathering of diverse health care advocates including those representing consumers, practitioners, providers, and those with particular concerns about mental health, substance misuse, women’s health, elder care, and services for people with disabilities. Please let us know how we can continue this conversation with you.
Policy and Community Organizing
ABLE New Hampshire
Arnie Alpert & Maggie Fogarty
American Friends Service Committee-NH
Granite State Organizing Project
Zandra Rice Hawkins
Granite State Progress & Education Fund
Indivisible New Hampshire
Kent Street Coalition
Rights and Democracy-NH