Sen. Warren: GOP blocking Democrats from health care talks

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is faulting Republicans for blocking Democrats from negotiations on the Senate version of a health care overhaul bill.

The Massachusetts Democrat said Monday that Senate Republicans are trying to get the bill to the floor of the Senate as quickly as possible.

"The Republicans have literally locked the Democrats out of the negotiations over the Senate health care bill," Warren said. "The Republicans right now seem to think they're going to be able to write this bill all by themselves and then cram it down the throats not just of Democrats but of tens of millions of people across this country. They are wrong."

Republicans long criticized Democrats for passing former President Barack Obama's 2010 health care law with no GOP votes.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has invited all Republicans to join with the Senate group crafting the bill.

"The working group that counts is all 52 of us, and we're having extensive meetings" daily, McConnell said last week.

Warren said the House bill would knock millions of people off of health care coverage, raise costs for people over 50 and working families, and open the door to discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions, women and people with mental health conditions — all to help deliver what she described as "a tax break for a handful of millionaires and billionaires."

She warned that those insured through their employer may not be immune from the effects of the House bill. She also suggested any discussion of health care should include talks about a so-called "single payer" plan.

Warren made her comments during a tour of the Cambridge Health Alliance Malden Care Center in Malden.

The House bill would gut major portions of the Obama law by overhauling government subsidies for private health insurance and winding down Obama's expansion of the Medicaid health care program for the poor, while also rolling back funding for traditional Medicaid and cutting taxes on upper-income people that Democrats used to finance coverage expansion of the existing law, the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare."

It would retain Obama's requirement that family policies cover grown children until age 26.

Congressional analysts estimate 24 million more Americans would be uninsured by 2026 under the bill, including 14 million by next year.

Dr. Laura Sullivan, who works at the Malden health center, described Obama's 2010 law as "transformative." She said under the law more people have been getting access to preventive care.

Before the law, about a third of those seeking care at the health center were uninsured compared to less than 10 percent now, she added.

"Now is the time for us to build up our communities instead of tearing them down," she said.

Dr. Mark Albanese, who also works at the center, said the debate hasn't escaped the notice of his patients.

He told the story of one of his patients who asked if he should begin weaning himself off of his treatment for addiction as soon as possible because he feared the Republican bill would cut it off and the treatment would disappear immediately.