Senate health care bill unnerves veterans

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While Republican senators seek to advance their bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, a major support base for the party—veterans’ organizations— is voicing concerns over how the proposed bill would impact coverage.

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While President Trump has focused intently on reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs throughout his tenure so far, only about 8 of 21 million American veterans receive health care from the VA. The others rely on Medicaid, purchase insurance on state or federal exchanges, have employer-provided insurance or have no coverage at all.

Changes to Medicaid have been a big source of criticism for the Republican Party. The Senate’s draft bill aims to curtail the Medicaid expansion mandated under the Affordable Care Act; while it does so less immediately than the House bill — starting in 2021— it ultimately calls for larger cuts to the program designed to help low income Americans and those with disabilities. Similar to the House proposal— the Senate draft would shrink the amount allocated to each state to fund the program by sending a fixed sum each year in the form of a block grant. However, under the Senate bill, that amount would grow more slowly.

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In a letter Tuesday to senators, Paralyzed Veterans of America, one of the six biggest nonpartisan veterans' groups, criticized an "opaque and closed" legislative process and proposed cuts to Medicaid that could lead to hundreds of thousands of lower-income veterans losing their insurance.

On Monday, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the Senate draft would lead to an additional 22 million uninsured Americans over the next decade. The agency also projected the legislation would lower the federal deficit by $321 billion over the same time period.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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