SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – California Gov. Jerry Brown joined Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris on Tuesday to speak out against the Better Care Reconciliation Act, the U.S. Senate’s version of a new health care bill.
The measure – meant to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, also called Obamacare – has been met with staunch resistance by Democrats and some Republicans since its introduction last week.
“This is such a political bill,” Brown said during a phone call with reporters. “It is a gross inequity. As I look across the political landscape, we are more and more polarized. This is a time when this country should be united, and this bill will be the most divisive maneuver, cutting right into the heart of what is already a divided nation.”
A report compiled by the Congressional Budget Office found that about 22 million more people would lose health care coverage under the Republican bill compared to estimates for the future under the ACA.
A poll conducted in 2016 by the Pew Research Center found that health care was the fourth most important topic to likely voters nationwide, coming in behind the economy, terrorism and foreign policy.
Sen. Harris said the Republican bill is nothing short of a disaster.
“Frankly, it is no wonder they did it in secret,” she said of Republicans who crafted the bill. “They have nothing to be proud of. The reality is that it is as bad, and in some cases worse than the House bill Trump called mean.”
Sen. Feinstein said California will pay more for less coverage.
“Our hospitals, particularly rural hospitals, would be devastated,” Feinstein said during the press call. “They would face $1.4 billion more in uncompensated care next year alone. This candidly increases the likelihood some would not survive.”
The Better Care Reconciliation Act promises to reduce the budget by $700 billion and provide hundreds of billions of dollars in tax relief.
“They talk about deficit reduction, their only goal, they wouldn’t give the tax break,” Gov. Brown said. “This is such a political bill. The $400 billion is 400 families that will get more money in Medicaid costs in three or four states. This is really, really bad.”
“One of the things we all try not to do,” Feinstein said, “is never turn the haves or the have-nots against each other, and that’s what this bill does. It’s really hard to see this happen. It’s abrupt selfishness. A bill that affects one-sixth of our economy is done in secret by 12 white men? It sets one group upon the other. ”
Due to cuts proposed by the Republican bill, some 5 million Californians would stand a chance of losing care. Sen. Feinstein said the impact would be felt most by those who rely on Medicaid, including seniors, veterans, children and the disabled.
“Some hospitals likely will not be able to keep their doors open,” she said. “All of these cuts are used for one reason; they are used to make the top 1 percent even richer by giving them billions in tax breaks.”
“This thing is bad for people,” said Gov. Brown. “Millions and millions of people are going to suffer. That’s a crazy thing for elected representatives to inflict on people.”
Despite numerous accounts of failures ACA failures over the last several years, Sen. Harris said California is an example of how well the program works when the state participates fully.
“We are very fortunate in California to be a role model and an example of when a state wants to make the ACA work, it works in a phenomenal way,” Harris sad. “We signed up 1.7 million people under Covered California and we also pushed a lot of folks into Medicaid because of California’s dedication and leadership to make it work.”
According to Harris, the Republican bill will effectively end Medicaid.
“It cuts Medicaid by $772 billion,” she said. “It radically restructures the program. It hurts seniors. It hurts children. Obviously, then, it hurts our most vulnerable population. Californians and Americans deserve better.”
Harris added, “What is insidious about what they are proposing is they are giving states a loophole to not require insurance companies to cover essential benefits…It would not be mandatory anymore for them to cover treatment for pre-existing conditions, such as pregnancy, mental health and drug addiction.”
Sen. Feinstein said the priority for Democrats is to ensure the bill is defeated before a Senate floor vote.
“We want to defeat this plan, it’s a bad plan through and through and through,” she said. “There aren’t one or two amendments that can fix it. It’s got to be defeated and then we can start over. I have always believed there are a couple things that maybe should be fixed in Obamacare, but the basic bill, it’s a good bill. It has worked.”
Feinstein said that beyond defeating the Republican bill, there is not a plan to advance changes to the ACA or any plan to address shortcomings in the immediate future.
“Our strategy is to defeat this Friday, defeat it solidly,” said Sen. Feinstein. “What we are asking is please address your calls to these people, tell them not to vote for it, use some of the facts we have given you. Can you believe what this does for wealthy people who can afford whatever they want with respect to health care?”
Sen. Harris agreed, saying the bill must be defeated.
Harris and Feinstein are currently promoting a bill to improve the ACA by eliminating a cut-off for financial help that prevents many middle-class people from buying insurance through marketplaces like Covered California.