The health care proposal under consideration in the U.S. Senate would be devastating to the thousands of Vermont residents who rely on the current system for care, and it has the potential to wreak havoc on the state's finances, top state and federal politicians across the political spectrum said Monday.
Meeting in the Statehouse office of Republican Gov. Phil Scott, the three members of the congressional delegation and other top lawmakers from the Democratic and Republican parties said they had different opinions about the best way to fix President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, but they agreed Vermont residents had to be protected in the process.
"This is not a Republican or Democratic issue. This is a human issue. It's a Vermont issue," Democratic U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy said.
Independent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders called it "the most dangerous and destructive piece of legislation ever brought before the United States Senate in the modern history of this country."
The proposal under consideration in the Republican-led Senate would unravel the Medicaid expansion that Vermont used to expand health insurance coverage. Some estimates say the plan would result in more than 20 million additional uninsured Americans nationwide over a decade compared to current law.
The Republican-majority U.S. House pushed a similar bill through their chamber in May. President Donald Trump, who made the repeal and replacement of "Obamacare" one of his top priorities, supports the legislation.
In Vermont, the Medicaid cuts could cost the state tens of millions of dollars in federal funds used to provide those services.
"The proposed reductions in Medicaid would leave our state with a budget deficit we could not absorb without cutting health care services for the people who deserve them most or significantly raising taxes on already overtaxed Vermonters," Scott said. "But regardless of what we might have to do, the consequences for Vermonters would be severe."
Scott was joined by Leahy, Sanders and Democratic U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, all of whom are against the bill.
Leahy said the proposal is a tax cut for corporate America at the expense of some of the 200,000 people in Vermont who rely on Medicaid.
State Rep. Don Turner, the Republican minority leader of the Vermont House, said that like many in his party, he did not support the original Affordable Care Act or the Medicaid expansion but that he understands that the Medicaid expansion cannot be repealed without a plan in place to replace the coverage.
"Regardless of political party, I think we all want what's best for Vermonters by ensuring there is affordable health care access to all in Vermont," Turner said.