GOP Health Bill Author Dismisses Gripes From ‘Medical Industrial Complex’

AP
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Opposition to the the GOP bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act continued to emerge on Wednesday—the bill’s second day in the public eye—with statements condemning the bill from groups representing doctors, nurses, hospitals, and the elderly.

Mobbed by reporters as he emerged from casting an afternoon vote, the bill’s author Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) brushed off the latest round of criticism, saying the thousands of hospitals and hundreds of thousands of doctors are part of a “medical industrial complex” that opposes major reforms to Medicaid.

“The hospitals came out against Medicaid reform before they ever saw the bill,” said Walden, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “But, you know, we understand that there’s a pretty big medical industrial complex that when you touch it, it touches back.”

Walden said he found the hospital organizations’ staunch opposition to his bill “sort of shocking,” because it includes a provision the hospitals very much want: a restoration of the Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) funding that was scaled back under the Affordable Care Act.

Before Obamacare’s implementation, hospitals that treated indigent people who couldn’t pay their bills received federal funding to cover some of those costs. When Obamacare allowed many of those same people to become covered under Medicaid, those payments were rescinded. Walden told reporters his bill—which freezes the Medicaid expansion in 2020 and turns it into block grants that lose value over time—would restore the previous model.

“We repealed the DSH cuts in states that didn’t do the [Medicaid] expansion. In the first two years, they go away,” he said. “In the states that did [expand Medicaid], they go away thereafter. That was one of their big asks, so this [criticism] is sort of disappointing.”

Walden’s lament that hospitals are not satisfied with getting one of their “big asks” in the bill contrasts sharply with the rhetoric of White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who railed Wednesday against catering legislative provisions to particular interest groups.

“This isn’t about trying to figure out how many special interests in Washington we can get paid off,” he said.

When Obamacare was passed, he added, Democrats used “one deal after another” to “buy votes.”

The associations opposing the bill—who collectively represent thousands of religious, private, and public hospitals across the country—warn that Walden’s bill will create “tremendous instability” in the health care sector and “is likely to result in a substantial reduction in the number of Americans able to
buy affordable health insurance or maintain coverage.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alice Ollstein is a reporter at Talking Points Memo, covering national politics. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2010 and has been reporting in DC ever since, covering the Supreme Court, Congress and national elections for TV, radio, print, and online outlets. Her work has aired on Free Speech Radio News, All Things Considered, Channel News Asia, and Telesur, and her writing has been published by The Atlantic, La Opinión, and The Hill Rag. She was elected in 2016 as an at-large board member of the DC Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Alice grew up in Santa Monica, California and began working for local newspapers in her early teens.

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