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Workers living in right-to-work states would become especially vulnerable to the cost-cutting machinations of the insurance industry, says Jane McAlevey

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KIM BROWN: Welcome to The Real News Network, in Baltimore. I’m Kim Brown. Two House of Representative committees, on Wednesday, began to debate the Republican bill to replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The bill faces an uphill battle, because a number of Republicans have already declared their opposition to it, calling it Obamacare-Lite. Let’s take a brief look at some of the opening statements that members of the House Ways and Means Committee gave. KEVIN BRADY: Though the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, has helped some, it has inflicted tremendous harm on more families, more workers, and more job creators nationwide. RICHARD NEAL: This bill suffers from an identity crisis. Is this healthcare, or is this a tax cut bill? Does it lower costs? No. Does it bend the cost curve? No. Does it cover more Americans? No. LLOYD DOGGETT: Incredibly, for a legislation of this magnitude, this plan, the particular plan we are considering today, even its principles, has never had a single public hearing anywhere. KIM BROWN: Since the bill was first presented to the public on Monday, doctors and other providers said that the bill would probably cause many patients to lose insurance, and raise healthcare costs. In a letter, the American Medical Association rejected the bill, and urged lawmakers to reconsider its drastic changes to Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor. Joining us today, to take a closer look at the Republican healthcare plan, is Dr. J. McAlevey. Jane is the author of the book titled, “Raising Expectations (and Raising Hell)”. Also, she is a contributor to The Nation, and author of the new book out right now, it’s titled, “No Shortcuts: Power and Strategy in the New Millennium.” Dr. Jane we appreciate you joining us. Thank you. JANE MCALEVEY: It’s great to be here. Thank you. KIM BROWN: So, a gradual consensus seems to be emerging that at least one of the main consequences of the Republican Healthcare plan, is that it would lead to fewer people being insured. Because replacing insurance subsidies, with tax credits would make health insurance for low-income households, and for the elderly, too expensive. So, Jane, what do you think about this, and what do you see as the main consequence? And what other consequences do you see with this proposed Republican healthcare plan? JANE MCALEVEY: Yeah, let’s just start and be very clear from the beginning. The bill is a complete disaster. There is not a single thing in the so-called Replace, Repeal, Replace bill, that has any interest for ordinary working people in this country. The bill, for starters, is primarily a gift to the insurance industry. Other than that, it’s a gift to the insurance industry and the super wealthy. So, the exact members of how many people would fall off, as a result of this legislation if they pass it? You know, no one has the exact number, but it’s pretty substantial. But there’s several things happening at once here. One is, there is no question that millions of people will be thrown off of health insurance, because they’re going to roll back the Medicaid expansion. And Medicaid is fundamental, as a sort of core pillar to the healthcare system, as we understand it right now. So, sometimes people think of Medicaid as a program for the poor. I have to tell you it’s really a program for our grandparents. When you think about the complex math that average people do in the United States, to figure out how they’re going to pay for long-term care costs, when their parents are aging. A key component of that is really Medicaid, and how it blends with Medicare. So, the first thing is, Republicans want to basically make it so that older Americans are going to be living, I don’t know, like under bridges, eating cat food. And I’m really not exaggerating about this. The bill is devastating to older folks. It says that health care costs can rise five times on older folks. I mean, there’s so much language that is buried in this legislation that is so crucial for folks to understand. And I’m glad that a lot of people are coming out against it, but we need way more than that. So, there’s several things they’re doing: One is the attack on Medicaid expansion and Medicaid. Which, again, is crucial for women, for people who have physical challenges in our country, but also in particular for older folks, not just Medicare. Because Medicaid and Medicare have a really close relationship, they’re sort of tied together, so that’s crucial. Another thing that is really interesting that I think; it has gotten some attention, of course, on The Real News Network, but it hasn’t gotten enough attention in general, is what’s coming next. Which is this issue that they call the right — you know the conservatives always name things really well — the right to sell plans across state lines. Which they say is a key component, like a next phase of what they want to do in the rollout of this plan. For people who haven’t paid enough attention to it, and I think Dean Baker touched on it several days ago, but it’s a very, very, very deep attack on the right of more progressive states, to actually hold the line, and keep having good state-based plans. Essentially, what the conservative Republican legislature is proposing, and to Trump, is really a state’s pre-emption attack. They want to make it so that a health insurer can take, maybe the weakest regulatory state in the country, which is probably either Alabama, or Mississippi. Or some southern, right to work, state in this country, right, where’s there’s low regulation. Health insurers want to be able to go into a state like that, where there’s very low regulations, where ordinary working folks have much less power than states like New York, or California, or Massachusetts, or fill in the blank. They want to be able to go to a state where there’s very low regulation, they want to put forward a really deficient health care plan, that I wouldn’t even call a health care plan. It’ll be something with very high deductibles that no ordinary working person can afford, with very high premiums that no ordinary working person can afford. They’re going to call that a healthcare package. They’re going to make it look like it costs less than what you might currently get under the Affordable Care Act, and then they’re going to shove it down our throats. Because once it’s in one weak regulatory state, like in Alabama, or in Mississippi, they’ll say — because they’re going to do a state pre-emption attack — they’re going to say, “Well, that plan is now going to be offered in the State of California, or the State of New York.” Two states where, by the way, a bad plan simply wouldn’t pass regulatory muster right now. So, the veiled attack that’s coming, is actually really deep, and it’s a pre-emption attack. And for a conservative movement that says that they’re in favor of states rights, to be using the sort of bully pulpit of states rights, to attack our right to access good healthcare, in a state like California, where I’m sitting right now, or New York, or Massachusetts, or Washington, or any number of states where they have much better standards for what healthcare insurers can offer to people, it’s a deadly move. And deadly, meaning I think that’s not hyperbole. I think that this plan is going to result in real pain, for ordinary working people in the United States of America. KIM BROWN: We’ve been speaking with Dr. Jane McAlevey. She is the author of a couple of books now, “Raising Expectations (and Raising Hell)” Also her new book that is in book stores now, it’s titled, “No Shortcuts: Power and Strategy in the New Millennium”. We’ve been talking about the Republican House proposal, their new health care bill to replace Obamacare. And in part two of our conversation, we’re going to talk about the prescription drug costs, and whether or not Donald Trump is looking out for seniors in that aspect. And what is going to happen with Planned Parenthood, in this new Republican health care proposal. So, stick around for part two of our conversation. You’re watching The Real News Network. ————————- END

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Jane McAlevey is a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center. Before academia, she worked for 20 years an organizer in the labor and environmental justice movements. She is a regular contributor to The Nation magazine, which chose her book, "Raising Expectations and Raising Hell" (Verso 2012), as the "most valuable book of 2012."