How can you call it a “health care plan” when it would deny millions of people insurance and raise medical costs for everyone else?
— Cecile Richards (@CecileRichards) May 4, 2017
The American Health Care Act, passed by Republicans in the House last week, is inhumane, an abomination, heartless and a death sentence for millions of Americans. There is no language too strong to describe the cruelty of what the GOP just did. If the AHCA becomes law, it will lead to massive death and pain-filled, excruciating lives. It’s as if the GOP has voted to commit an act of war against American citizens.
It allows states, for example, to opt out of a provision in the current law that prevents insurance companies from gouging people with preexisting conditions. That’s why the “opt out” provision is in the bill. It’s there for a reason. It’s obvious millions of people will get priced out of insurance altogether.
It also slashes funding for Medicaid, leaving 14 million people without any coverage, according to earlier estimates. Oklahoma, which never accepted the federal expansion of Medicaid under the current law, would be hit hard, and even more people would go without much needed health care.
Employers insurance costs are sure to rise under this non-plan, which will be passed on to employees.
Let’s face it: (1) People will either lose their health insurance altogether (2) or pay much more for less coverage while rich people get a tax cut under the AHCA. That’s the Republican plan in all its clarity. It’s not an over-simplification. It’s not an issue of choosing one’s doctor or “freedom” of choice when it comes to treatments.
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a former Democratic presidential candidate, had this to say about the bill:
So here we are once again in a state budget mess as time begins to wind down in the legislative session and, faced with a $878 million budget shortfall for next fiscal year, lawmakers and stakeholders have starting offering up proposals.
— OSSBA (@OSSBAoklahoma) May 2, 2017
On one side of the proposals, a small group of legislators and their supporters are suggesting the state raise the oil and gas production tax back to its historic level of 7 percent and increase income taxes on the wealthiest Oklahomans. This could put a dent in the shortfall
On another side, there are proposals to tax more services and raise taxes on cigarettes and fuel, which would help the financial situation somewhat and could lead to teacher raises but would hardly solve the problem. Some people see these as regressive taxes, as well, because people with less income pay more of a percentage of their income for the essentials of life. One can argue whether cigarettes are “essential,” of course.
Then there’s The Oklahoman editorial board, which recently warned “ . . . if lawmakers raise taxes on oil and gas production and cause curtailment of drilling, they could quickly turn the current state recovery back into a recession.”
In the end, funding cuts seem to be a given once again this coming year.
So we’re stuck in a dire situation. Oklahoma, it has been noted repeatedly, has cut education the most on a percentage basis than any other state since 2008. Teachers haven’t had an across-the-board raise in years, and many are flocking to other states for better pay and support.
Legislators have apparently yet to come to an agreement on how they plan to fund proposed teacher raises and with their session scheduled to end in about a month that’s not an encouraging sign.
— OKHouseGOP (@GOPHouseOK) April 26, 2017
NewsOK.com reported that the Oklahoma Senate has not scheduled a hearing on a proposed House bill that would raise teacher salaries by $6,000 spread out over three years. This means it missed a Thursday deadline, although by rule it could still be worked out by the Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget, according to the NewsOK.com article.
The Oklahoma Legislature, at least in recent years, has been noted for bringing up companion legislation and passing budget deals at the very end of the session, which is a practice that sometimes gives little time for public input on crucial matters impacting the state.
The teacher pay raise, which is a crucial matter given that some teachers here are flocking to other states for better salaries, has been endorsed by a number of Republicans in the GOP-dominated legislature and Gov. Mary Fallin. The sticking point, of course, is that the state faces an $878 million budget shortfall for next fiscal year. How will the raises be funded?
The lack of an agreement on a funding plan may well mean at least some legislators want to be perceived as trying to fight for teacher raises when, in fact, they know that given the dire budget situation there’s no way any significant increase is possible.They want to have it both ways. Even a nominal raise would help, but committing the state to a three-year, $6,000 teacher pay increase without significant tax hikes or additional revenue streams would mean drastic cuts elsewhere in the budget.
BLUE OKLAHOMA, ANYTHING BUT SAD.
Blue Oklahoma has been a part of the Oklahoma political blogging scene since 2006. It originally began as a progressive, diary-like site with a handful of contributors and still remains open to people who want to write liberal and center-left commentary. It also serves as a companion site for Kurt Hochenauer's Okie Funk blog, which has been part of the news media here since 2004.
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- Despite GOP Rhetoric No Raises For Oklahoma Teachers May 29, 2017
- College Staff Vital To Higher Education Mission May 16, 2017
- Trump Fires Comey In Attempt To End Russian Collusion Investigation May 10, 2017
- AHCA Is An Immoral Disaster May 7, 2017
- Oklahoma Faces Budget Problems Once Again May 2, 2017