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Connecticut Medicaid Patients Likely To Lose Care Under Federal Health Bill

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Connecticut's Medicaid program will be in trouble if the Senate's health care bill becomes law. And health policy experts say people with private insurance are also likely to feel the ramifications.

Dr. Jeffrey Gordon is president of the Connecticut State Medical Society, which represents the state’s physicians. He said Thursday there’s a lot to digest in the Senate bill, but his initial reaction is concern about how Connecticut’s already-challenged Medicaid expansion will function when federal funding is cut.

"Potentially what it might have to do is cut back on paying physicians who take care of people on Medicaid," he told WNPR. "Already physicians are significantly underpaid, and there's a lot of doctors who will not enroll in the Medicaid program to see people. But also, it would have an effect on patients themselves because it would limit their ability to get care."

Gordon said the top priority for his organization is to ensure that no one who's currently insured has their coverage withdrawn, and that those people have effective care.

"We're literally right now trying to understand all the details," he said. "We're having a lot of our members contact us asking those questions and we're trying to get answer for them as rapidly as we can."

Meanwhile, the head of Yale’s health policy unit said Senate Republicans have given themselves problems from the left and the right, when it comes to passing their revised healthcare bill.

"Reading the bill, my overall reaction is to wonder why the Republicans have gone to all this trouble to repeal the Affordable Care Act when it’s clear that they actually like a lot of parts of the Affordable Care Act," said Professor Abbe Gluck, the director of the Solomon Center for Health Law and Policy at Yale.

According to Gluck, the Senate bill preserves many of the ACA’s principles of equal access to the insurance market, but provides a lot less funding for the poor to do so.

"Some of the Senate conservatives are running around saying this is Obamacare light, in a perjorative sense, and it’s true that like a diet cookie, the light version is not always as good as the real thing," said Gluck.

She believes politicians may get some pushback from insurers because they are still required to insure pre-existing conditions, yet the requirement that everyone buy insurance is gone.

"There's nothing in there that incentivizes people to buy insurance, and yet the Republicans have kept the really popular parts of the Affordable Care Act that do require the insurance industry to make those sorts of reforms," Gluck said. 

She doesn’t believe the bill will address the high cost of healthcare in a holistic way, but it will have other economic effects.

"It’s a huge redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich - we’ve yet to see any real justification from the Republican party about why they thought this was good policy," she said.

Gluck thinks the aims of the bill appear to be mainly political - an approach she called repeal for repeal’s sake.

Harriet Jones is Managing Editor for Connecticut Public Radio, overseeing the coverage of daily stories from our busy newsroom.

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