Shaheen cites Concord boy in response to Senate health care bill

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    Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., speaks to reporters, joined at left by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., as they talk about health overhaul following a closed-door strategy session at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, June 20, 2017. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says Republicans will have a "discussion draft" of a GOP-only bill scuttling former President Barack Obama's health care law by Thursday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) J. Scott Applewhite

Monitor staff
Published: 6/22/2017 11:46:06 PM

Bodhi Bhattarai, who suffers from a rare genetic neuromuscular disease, uses an expensive wheelchair to move around, giving the 3-year-old Concord boy a level of independence his parents once thought he’d never have.

Now the couple is worried again, after Senate Republicans unveiled a health care bill Thursday that some fear would strip coverage from those with pre-existing conditions.

New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen cited this concern on the Senate floor, showing a picture of Bodhi sitting next to his mother.

The photo, displayed on a large placard, was one of five examples Shaheen used to illustrate why repealing the Affordable Care Act, something Republicans have been promising to do for seven years, would hurt some Americans. One by one, Shaheen read letters and told the stories of people who are now worried about their coverage.

According to Shaheen, Deodonne Bhattarai wrote a letter to her which read, in part, “Our 3-year-old son is a bright, curious, funny little boy who also has spinal muscular atrophy. Our insurance initially denied coverage for his wheelchair, but because of the Affordable Care Act’s ban on discrimination against those with preexisting conditions, my son is now able to explore the world independently.”

The Senate bill, negotiated in secret, is an effort to dismantle President Barack Obama’s health care law. It would cut Medicaid; end penalties for people not buying insurance; and erase tax increases on higher-income people, insurers and others.

Removing coverage for pre-existing conditions has added to the controversy.

After living a healthy, normal life for much of his first year, Bodhi Bhattarai was diagnosed with an incurable disease that affects 1 in 10,000 babies and is the No. 1 genetic cause of death among infants, although some inflicted with the illness have lived to 60.

Deodonne and her husband, Ranjan, noticed that, by eight months, their son wasn’t rolling over or lifting himself up from his stomach. Last year, Deodonne left her job as an attorney to focus on Bodhi’s health, and she also began volunteering at a local nonprofit that specializes in disability rights.

“I’ve read news reports about Republican legislation,” Deodonne wrote to Shaheen, “and I fear our ability to maintain not just insurance coverage, but the type of quality coverage my son’s life depends upon.”

Shaheen also said the bill “would mean less coverage for fewer people at higher costs, all while giving a tax cut to the wealthy.

“Taken together, this is a bad deal for New Hampshire and a bad deal for the American people. I will also continue to urge my Republican colleagues to work across the aisle to make needed fixes to the Affordable Care Act, not repeal it, so that more Americans have affordable, accessible health care.”

Two other members of New Hampshire’s Democratic congressional delegation also condemned the Senate Republicans’ health care bill, calling it heartless and devastating to the state’s residents.

Sen. Maggie Hassan said Senate Republicans took a bill that President Donald Trump has called “mean” and made “it even more heartless.” She complained about the bill’s deep cuts to Medicaid and its efforts to defund Planned Parenthood.

“There is no doubt that the Affordable Care Act needs to be improved, but Trumpcare would make things worse for most Americans – whether they currently get their insurance through their employer, buy it privately, buy it through the exchange or have Medicaid,” Hassan said in a statement. “I will do everything in my power to stop this devastating Trumpcare bill from ever becoming law, and I urge all Granite Staters to continue telling your stories and making your voices heard about how harmful this bill would be for you.”

Rep. Carol Shea-Porter said she was “appalled” by the bill and said it would derail the state’s efforts to fight the opioid crisis and charge older Americans more.

“Ending Medicaid as we know it would set our state back in the fight against the heroin, fentanyl, and prescription opioid crisis and put millions of kids, seniors in nursing homes, and people with disabilities at risk of losing their care,” she said in a statement.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.)

Ray Duckler bio photo

Ray Duckler, our intrepid columnist, focuses on the Suncook Valley. He floats from topic to topic, searching for the humor or sadness or humanity in each subject. A native New Yorker, he loves the Yankees and Giants. The Red Sox and Patriots? Not so much.

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