Lawmakers vow more affordable, accessible health care, while critics say that bill would make many Americans uninsured
REPUBLICANS in the House of Representatives announced new legislation on Monday, March 6 to repeal and replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as “Obamacare.”
Called the American Health Care Act, it is part of President Donald Trump’s campaign promise to get rid of Obamacare and replace it with a new system designed along conservative lines.
The new bill will affect about 20 million people who directly purchase their own private health plans from a provider and more than 70 million low-income people who are covered by Medicaid.
As GOP members call it a “necessary fix,” many Democratic legislators and consumer health advocates have voiced their dismay and concerns over the new health bill. One major fear that millions of Americans — about half who still have health care through their employers — will lose coverage and/or be affected by the certain rules concerning employer-based plans. If the Trump administration decides to replace or repeal the ACA, benefits such as lifetime limits, pre-existing conditions, birth control and others could disappear.
However, Obamacare is “rapidly collapsing,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan in a statement given to CNN.
“The American Health Care Act is a plan to drive down costs, encourage competition, and give every American access to quality, affordable health insurance. It protects young adults, patients with pre-existing conditions, and provides a stable transition so that no one has the rug pull out from under them,” Ryan said.
Highlights of the new health care bill: What’s new and what’s not
As proposed, the new health care bill would:
• Wipe out ACA’s individual mandate requiring all Americans to have health coverage. The new bill would repeal the unpopular fines on people who don’t carry health insurance. However, it does allow insurance companies to impose a 30 percent surcharge to anyone who buys and lapses on their coverage of two months or more.
• Replace income-based subsidies with tax credits based more on age and would be adjusted annually for inflation.
• Bar federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
• Phase out expanded funding for newly eligible Medicaid recipients. It would end the higher federal match for expansion beneficiaries starting 2020.
• Eliminate tax deductions for employers who provide insurance.
• Reduce federal funds for certain state and local public health programs.
Some provisions in the Obama law, however, would be retained. Among them are popular consumer protections such as insurance safeguard for people with pre-existing medical problems, and parents’ keeping their young adult children on their insurance until they are 26 years old.
Voices of concern from both sides
The House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Ways and Means Committee are expected to take up the measure at hearings on Wednesday, March 8, setting the stage for proposals to be merged into a final bill next week by the House Budget Committee. But apart from Democratic legislators, significant numbers of moderate Republicans have voiced their concerns that the legislation could leave too many people without coverage.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) took to on Twitter on Tuesday, saying that the proposed bill would not pass, dismissing it as “Obamacare Lite.”
“The House leadership plan is Obamacare Lite. It will not pass,” he tweeted. “Conserva[t]ives are not going to take it. #FullRepeal.”
Four other GOP senators — Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Rob Portman of Ohio, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — also said they won’t support the bill. In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the senators said that the new plan lacks stability for people enrolled in expanded Medicaid and has no flexibility for states.
Joining Rand in questioning the new bill are Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), calling the proposed legislation as “a step in the wrong direction.” Lee also is objecting the refundable tax credits, adding that there are no definite numbers on how many people would actually use it.
“We don’t know how much it will cost, and we don’t know if this bill will make health care more affordable for Americans,” he said in a report by SFGate.
On the Democratic side, Reps. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Richard Neal (D-Mass) (who are ranking members of two committees that will consider the bill) said in a joint statement that the GOP bill would “rip health care away from millions of Americans.” They also said that it would not provide full care for working families and seniors, and would only put insurance companies back in charge of health care decisions.
The new health bill would cut more than 20 taxes enacted under the ACA. Although this would save taxpayer nearly $600 billion over the next decade, the bulk of it would go to the wealthy.
About 20 million Americans gained health care coverage (many for the first time) since ACA was launched in 2010. In California, the uninsured rate dropped by half— from 16.4 percent
in 2013 to 8.6 percent in 2015, mostly due to enrollment gains among low-income individuals. Since close to 5 million Californians have relied on federal subsidies through Medi-Cal or in private plans through Covered California, the new health plan proposal to repeal Medicaid expansion would force the state to bear more of the costs or limit their eligibility, according to Sacramento Bee. (AJPress, with reports from the Associated Press)