“This is our opportunity to keep our campaign promise," said Senator Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) on Thursday when the United States Senate took the first steps toward eliminating The Affordable Care Act, which is known by many as "Obama Care." The program allows roughly 20 million Americans including 139,000 eligible working Mississippians to purchase health insurance policies or to be covered under provisions that had not previously been available in the insurance marketplace.
U.S. Senate Democrats offered amendments to keep some of the most popular provisions of the law including continued insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and protecting rural hospitals. They were all voted down by the Republican majority. Democrats also offered amendments to allow cheaper imports of drugs from Canada but that also was defeated by the Republican membership. The repeal legislation must be drafted by January 27, 2017.
Here in Mississippi, repeal will effect 22,000 young adults below the age of 26 still on their parents' policy, 1.26 million people with pre-existing conditions, 1.16 million that receive the free preventative care benefits and 61 thousand that have mental issues or substance abuse problems. But that is not all.
Medicare covers 572,000 Mississippians. Repeal of the Act opens back up the prescription donut hole and results in the loss of free wellness visits. It also removes the strengthening provisions for the Medicare Trust to keep it viable. The House of Representatives is due to vote on the first steps of repeal Friday, January 13, 2017.
Meanwhile, Tuesday, the U.S. House Republican majority was busy passing a Rules package making it is easier to transfer or sell America’s public lands. If you hunt, fish, or just enjoy the outdoors public lands offer, this legislation has significant impact. Every Republican Congressman from Mississippi, Harper, Kelly, and Palazzo supported the legislation while Bennie Thompson voted NO.
Back at home, the Mississippi Legislature showed once again how they will try to evade public scrutiny when presenting legislation. A bill that limits campaign finances was placed on the calendar on Tuesday and took up for vote on Wednesday. The public had little notice nor an opportunity to have input concerning the legislation.
This will be the Republican majority’s game plan for the year. They can espouse legislation which was taken up in the light of day all while not having hearings or debate prior to slipping it on the calendar for a quick vote.