Making health care unaffordable again

By Val G. Abelgas

AFTER failing for many years to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), popularly known as Obamacare, Republicans in both the House and the Senate are touting their control of Congress and are now ramming down a cruel legislation to finish a job they started just as soon as Obamacare became a law.

Speaker Paul Ryan and some Republicans accused the Democrats of rushing ACA through Congress. And yet, the House passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which would henceforth be known as the Trumpcare Bill, in a rush, without holding the prerequisite hearings and without waiting for an analysis by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.

The highly credible CBO later said in a report that the House bill would leave at least 23 million Americans uninsured in 10 years or by 2026. The report also confirmed one of the biggest worries of health-policy experts and constituents: that the bill could undermine protections for people with preexisting conditions.

Despite the unfavorable CBO report and surveys that showed only 16 percent of Americans support the House bill, the Senate Republicans, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, announced an almost identical, nay worse, Senate version of the bill, and vowed to pass the legislation before the Fourth of July.

After weeks of meetings behind closed door, McConnell and company finally came up with a proposed Obamacare replacement that they now want to ram down Americans’ throats without the benefit of thorough scrutiny and despite concerns raised, again, by the Congressional Budget Office.

The CBO said that the proposed Senate healthcare bill that would replace Obamacare would increase the number of Americans without health insurance by 2026 to 22 million, only one million short of CBO estimate of 23 million for the House version. The CBO report, which came a few days after McConnell announced the Senate version, said by next year alone, 15 million more Americans would be uninsured compared to the current law (ACA).

The CBO also said the Senate legislation would decrease federal deficits by a total of $321 billion over a decade, compared to $119 billion that the House version would do. Critics said these deficit reduction would result from cuts in federal subsidies to Medicaid, the federal-state program that provides insurance to about 70 million poor, disabled and elderly Americans; to special education programs; to programs that help people who do not get insurance through employers and have to buy their own policies; and to Planned Parenthood, which provides birth control, cancer screenings and other health services to 2.5 million people, mainly women.
In sum, the Republican-sponsored healthcare bills in both the House and the Senate would debilitate critical federal programs that provide health care to millions of Americans that could not otherwise afford to buy medical insurance. The Senate version would repeal most of the taxes imposed by the Affordable Care Act, including those on high-income people and on health care companies, to the detriment of the poor, disabled and the elderly.

Former President Barack Obama, the real target of President Donald Trump and his fellow hardcore Republicans in their obvious effort to reverse all of Obama’s policies, slammed the Senate bill.

“The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America. Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family – this bill will do you harm. And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.”

The Republicans have long wanted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which is considered by many as Obama’s most remarkable achievement, having provided insurance to 20 million previously uninsured Americans. They said Obamacare has caused insurance premiums to skyrocket and has deprived Americans of coverage in large swaths of the country and that their replacement bill would correct the flaws of Obamacare.

But the CBO and those in the know seem to believe otherwise. Even before the budget office released its report on Monday, the American Medical Association officially announced its opposition to the bill, and the National Governors Association urged the Senate to slow down.

McConnell wanted to force a vote on the Senate bill by last week but may be forced to delay the vote because of pressures from some Republicans. Five conservative Republican senators have said they cannot support the version of the bill and assuming all the Democrats and independents vote against it, only two negative Republican votes are enough to derail yet another move to repeal Obamacare.

“Currently, for a variety of reasons, we are not ready to vote for this bill, but we are open to negotiation and obtaining more information before it is brought to the floor,” said four of the senators — Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, and Ted Cruz of Texas — in a joint statement. They said the draft bill would not repeal Obamacare and lower healthcare costs.

The fifth senator, Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada later said he is opposed to the Senate repeal bill in its current form. Heller raised concerns about the bill’s phase-out of Medicaid’s expansion.

Reforming Obamacare to make it more beneficial to more Americans is commendable, but repealing it just to spite Obama and making it worse for the millions of Americans who otherwise cannot afford to buy insurance is another thing. The way the Republicans are derailing Obamacare, the new version should be named Unaffordable Care Act. These efforts should be opposed by the American people.