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Liberal think tank: 1.34 million in NC could lose health insurance under Senate health plan

If the Senate health care plan becomes law, no state’s residents would fare worse than North Carolina, according to a new study on the proposed bill.

That includes 1.3 million people in North Carolina, according to a new study – the fourth-most in the nation, and the highest percentage of people losing coverage in any state.

Democrats were quick to jump on the news.

“It's just a terrible proposal,” said Rep. David Price, in a video he taped Tuesday. “Why are the Republicans forging ahead with this? ... Well, apparently they still want to just vindictively go after anything associated with President Obama. They also want to find hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.”

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper said the study – which was conducted by a liberal think tank, the Center For American Progress – showed the Senate plan “is just wrong.”

“This bill would increase out-of-pocket costs, kick people off health care, and harm our ability to fight the opioid crisis,” Cooper said in a written statement.

On Monday, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that if the Senate plan passes, 22 million people will lose their health care coverage by 2026 – including 15 million by next year alone. The Center For American Progress took the those findings and used census data and other figures to estimate how those estimated losses would break down among each of the country’s 435 Congressional districts.

The group found that, on average, about 50,500 fewer people would have coverage in each congressional district, for a total of 22 million. But in North Carolina that number more than doubles.

Charlotte will be hit especially hard, the organization’s numbers show.

The city and its suburbs are mostly divided into two districts represented by Alma Adams, a Democrat, and Robert Pittenger, a Republican.

No district in the country will have more people lose health care than Adams’ district if the Senate bill becomes law, it said. And Pittenger’s district, which winds from Charlotte to Fayetteville, would have the fourth-most anticipated losses in the nation.

“I agree with the president that it's ‘mean,’ ” Adams said, referring to President Donald Trump’s recent comment on the House’s health care bill. “I don’t agree with him on everything, but he’s right about that. That is not alternative facts or fake news.”

Combined, the study said, nearly 250,000 people in their two districts would lose coverage.

Pittenger pointed out the think tank’s liberal leanings and said he thinks the losses it projected are exaggerated. But he did acknowledge that the Senate plan and the House plan, which he voted for, will result in at least some reduction in health care coverage.

“Republican health care reform is based on freedom of choice, so coverage numbers will go down as some choose to purchase less coverage or even no coverage,” Pittenger wrote in an email. “That’s their right as Americans. Our legislation will also instill much needed accountability in the Medicaid program, which can only be achieved by making states responsible for cost overruns and eligibility, encouraging them to identify providers who are exploiting the system.”

David Anderson, a health care policy researcher at Duke University, said that while CAP certainly does have a political agenda, the methodology it used for this study was straightforward. He said that while it probably won’t end up being completely accurate, the general picture it paints – that North Carolina will feel the brunt of an Obamacare repeal more than just about any other state – is likely to be correct.

“It’s a fast analysis, so let’s caveat that fact,” he said. “An analysis that gets released six months from now after $3 million is poured into it, is going to be more accurate. But this is in the right direction.”

Adams said no matter whether her district ends up being the hardest hit or not, she’s still against the bill.

“One thing that's consistent is we’re talking about 22 million people (losing coverage nationally),” she said. “Everybody’s saying the same thing.”

The estimates were for non-elderly Americans who have coverage through both the individual market and Medicaid.

In North Carolina, the 1.3 million people estimated to lose coverage includes 710,000 people who would lose coverage on the individual market, and nearly 640,000 additional people who would lose coverage through Medicaid.

Joining Adams and Pittenger in the top 5 on the list of coverage losses is Republican Rep. David Rouzer, who represents the area between Wilmington and Smithfield. Between the three of them they represent all of south-central and southeastern North Carolina.

That area will have about 340,000 people lose coverage, the study found.

The Triangle was the best off area in North Carolina, according to the study, although it still will suffer more than most of the rest of the country.

Price, who represents Chapel Hill, Durham and parts of Wake County, will have 94,800 lose coverage according to the study – the 23rd most in the nation, but the least of any North Carolina district. Price wasn’t happy.

“It's worse than we imagined,” Price said.

And Republican Rep. George Holding’s district, which covers most of Wake County and some outlying areas, will see an additional 97,400 people lose coverage.

Vote rescheduled

The Congressional Budget Office score came out Monday, and the Center for American Progress study came out Tuesday morning.

By Tuesday afternoon, the Senate had announced it was re-scheduling a vote on the bill that had been planned for this week until at least next month, after it appeared not enough Republican senators were on board.

North Carolina’s two senators, Republicans Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday. Last week, before either study came out, Tillis had been non-committal on his support for the bill. Burr said he liked it.

“This draft legislation outlines a number of initiatives that are good for North Carolina,” Burr said in an official statement.

Not everyone agrees.

Rev. William Barber, the president of the N.C. NAACP, previously called the GOP plans to repeal and replace Obamacare “political murder,” comparable to slavery.

“You’ve not seen this kind of attack on poor people and poor bodies since the days black people were used to make free money as slaves,” Barber said. “That’s the way we need to start talking about this.”

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