Senators: Federal cuts, health changes threaten state economy, residents

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Senator Warren speaks at MMA 2017 Annual MeetingChanges to Obamacare and Medicare, along with cuts to Community Development Block Grants, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institutes of Health, are among the possible changes under President Donald Trump that could hurt Massachusetts, U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey told local officials at the MMA’s Annual Business Meeting on Jan. 21.
 
“Buckle your seat belts, it’s going to be a rough ride,” Warren warned.
 
Warren said repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act without a replacement could cause approximately 500,000 Massachusetts residents to lose their health care coverage, and losing the Medicaid expansion covered by a federal waiver would take coverage away from an additional 300,000 people, at a time when the state is still struggling with an opioid epidemic.
 
The Commonwealth’s expansion of health insurance coverage, which predates Obamacare, will not inoculate the state from changes at the federal level, she added, because of the state’s later adoption of federal rules.
 
“It’s deeply integrated financially,” Warren said. “So we have a big reason here in Massachusetts to fight to preserve the Affordable Care Act – better yet to fight to improve it – but to make certain that no one is permitted to repeal and run.”
 
Warren sounded the alarm over Trump’s nomination of Congressman Tom Price for Health and Human Services secretary and Betsy DeVos for Education secretary.
 
Price supports House Speaker Paul Ryan’s budget, which would make $449 billion in cuts over the next decade and turn Medicare into a voucher program, Warren said, while DeVos “does not believe in public education.”
 
Warren and Markey pledged to fight to protect funding for Community Development Block Grants, one of the few programs, Warren said, that provides funding that can be spent in different ways at the local level.
 
Senator Markey speaks at the MMA 2017 Annual MeetingMarkey added that protecting CDBG, along with funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, Head Start, and special education, is protecting “our business plan” in Massachusetts.
 
He described the “business plan” as: attracting smart, young people to the state’s higher education institutions, retaining them by providing access to the capital they need to start small companies, and then giving them a well-trained and educated workforce.
 
The programs that support that business plan are all “on the table down in Washington, D.C.,” Markey said, with Trump’s promise to cut $10 trillion from the federal budget over the next decade.
 
He said Massachusetts receives the second-largest amount of NIH money and the third largest amount of CDC money, which helps to support the state’s biotech and health industries.
 
“All that money flows in, creating jobs, drawing talented people, and ultimately helping to create new companies that first need 2,000 square feet, then 5,000 square feet, then 25,000, and then before you know it Vertex has 1 million square feet on Boston Harbor,” Markey said. “But it all begins with that seed money.”
 
Federal funding for clean energy research could also be cut if Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is approved as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, while Trump’s pick for the Federal Communications Commission opposes net neutrality, a standing policy that Markey said opens the roadway for new telecom and internet-based startups.
 
“Biotech, clean tech, telecom tech, internet tech – that’s who we are,” he said. “Each one of [the proposed] policies then goes to our business plan.”
 
Markey said he and Warren will “align ourselves very strongly” as a bloc to protect funding for health, education, telecom, clean energy, and other programs that “have turned us into a modern great economy.”
 
Warren invoked the people who local officials work for “every single day” and who first sent her to office, saying they “needed us” when she and the local officials in the room first took their jobs, “and now they need us more than ever.”
 
“So that means it gets tough, and we stand up, we fight harder, we fight smarter, and we fight more passionately than ever,” she said. “Because that is why we are in public service. … And it will be an honor to fight alongside you.”