Underscoring Washington’s partisan divide, Charlotte’s two members of Congress differed sharply on health care Monday, with Republican Rep. Robert Pittenger touting a GOP bill that Democratic Rep. Alma Adams called “heartless.”
They spoke at separate events in what could be a critical week in Republican efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
U.S. Senate leaders said Monday they could release a new version of their bill this week, setting up a possible vote next week.
Speaking to more than 200 people at Mayfield Memorial Missionary Baptist Church, Adams said the GOP bill would force nearly 118,000 people in her 12th District to lose insurance coverage by 2026.
“The loss of coverage is a death sentence for some, and bankruptcy court for those lucky enough to survive,” she said. She also accused Republicans of “attempting to end Medicaid as we know it.”
Earlier in the day, Pittenger offered a more upbeat take on the Republican bill when he spoke at a meeting with business leaders at the Charlotte Chamber. He has been a strong and consistent critic of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, which he believes is “collapsing.”
“What we want to do is provide health care that’s not federally mandated,” he told the Chamber group, adding that he expects a compromise replacement bill to emerge.
“To not do it would be irresponsible,” he said.
But Republican senators were still divided when they returned to Washington Monday. On Sunday Sen. John McCain of Arizona said the current bill is probably “dead.” And Politico reported that Republicans “appear miles away” from agreeing on a plan.
At the Chamber, Pittenger said Republicans agree on the framework of a plan. He said they agree that a bill should remove mandates, offer more choices, create a “market-driven” solution and and put states in charge of Medicaid, the program for the poor and disabled that covers 70 million Americans.
“At the end of the day, Republicans are going to find a consensus,” Pittenger told reporters after meeting with business leaders.
The liberal Center for American Progress estimates the Senate bill would mean 1.3 million North Carolinians would lose insurance coverage. That includes 639,000 who would lose Medicaid coverage.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that under the Senate bill, overall Medicaid spending would be reduced by $160 billion by 2026 compared with current law.
Adams said Medicaid cuts would hurt not only the poor but nearly a third of adults with disabilities. Catherine Harvey Sevier, North Carolina president of AARP, said the cuts would disproportionately affect seniors and people over 50. Two-thirds of Americans in nursing homes depend on Medicaid, she said.
Pittenger said the House and Senate Republican plans transfer more of the Medicaid program, now a joint federal-state effort, to the states. He said allowing states to be more accountable would mean less fraud in the system. He doesn’t believe people would stop getting services.
“America is a generous country,” he said. “We’re a generous state. I don’t think you are going to see a lagging of support. You’re going to see better management.”
Adams, a former state legislator, doesn’t agree that state lawmakers would manage the system better.
“I don’t trust them to do the right thing,” she said.
So far the Senate GOP plan has not been popular. A USA Today/Suffolk University Poll late last month found that just 12 percent of Americans like it.
Asked why there’s such low support for the bill, Pittenger said, “Because they don’t know anything about the bill.”
Adams believes it’s because people do know about it.
“Like many of you, I’m deeply concerned about ‘Trumpcare,’ ” she said. “I call it ‘Trump Don’t Care.’ ”