DISSECTING THE REPUBLICAN HEALTHCARE BILL: AARP AND AMA WARN MEASURE HURTS PATIENTS AND SENIORS

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By Miriam Raftery

AARP warns that seniors age 50-64 will pay $8,500 a year more for health insurance premiums each year, on average, under the GOP plan. Read the bill here

March 10, 2017 (San Diego’s East County) –Major organizations representing patients, doctors, nurses and senior citizens have come out against the “American Health Care Act” ( AHCA or “Trumpcare”), Congressional Republicans’ plan for replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA Obamacare) that’s being fast-tracked through Congress. 

The American Medical Association (AMA),  the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and others warn that the plan will weaken benefits and make healthcare much more expensive than many people are paying now, whether you’re on an ACA plan, private health insurance or Medicare/Medicare.   

“As drafted, the AHCA would result in millions of Americans losing coverage and benefits,”  Dr. Andrew Gurman, prseident of the AMA, the nation's largest organization of doctors, said Wednesday. "By replacing income-based premium subsidies with age-based tax credits,  AHCA will also make coverage more expensive—if not out of reach—for poor and sick Americans. For these reasons, the AMA cannot support the AHCA as it is currently written.”

In a letter to key committee members in the House, the AMA further notes that over 20 millon Americans have healthcare coverage due to the ACA and that the AHCA would result in “decline in health insurance” and potential harm to  vulnerable patients.

The bill weakens protections not only for those who have coverage under the ACA, but also those who have policies provided by employers or who purchase private plans on their own.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly promised to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a plan that would be better .  But an analysis of the AHCA that it offers zero improvements in healthcare quality or affordability for most Americans,  destroys many protections under the ACA, and offers help for only two classes:  tax cuts for insurance companies and for wealthy Americans.

What the AHCA does:

  • Repeal Obamacare and eliminate all subsidies. Instead tax credits will be provided for you to buy your own healthcare.  You pay up front and save just $2,000 to $5,000 on taxes – far less than the cost of buying a policy.
  • Older people can be charged up to 5 times more than young people. The AARP estimates  seniors age 50-64 will pay $8,500 a year more for health insurance than they do currently.
  • You can’t get those tax credits for any policy that covers abortion—which eliminates tax credits for policies in California.   California’s Supreme Court has ruled that our state’s constitution privacy rights require abortion access, thus state law was changed to require that all policies cover abortion, the L.A. Times has reported. That can’t be changed without a constitutional amendment, which is not likely to pass in liberal California. Thus most Californians will have to pay 100% of your healthcare policy costs—costs forecast to be much higher than under the ACA.
  • Ends the mandate to buy healthcare. So younger and healthier people may opt to not get any coverage.   That puts them at risk if they develop a serious illness or need surgery.  It also means  insurers won’t have as many premiums from lower-risk young people but will have to pay for care for higher risk individuals, which will force rates higher and could lead to some insurers getting out of the business entirely.
  • If you are without insurance short-term,  such as due to losing a job,  you can be charged 30% more to buy coverage again.  That could lead to people unable to afford policies.
  • End all funding for Planned Parenthood clinics:  not only for abortion but all medical services such as mammograms and birth control.
  • The AHCA, like the ACA, prohibits insurers from denying insurance if you have a pre-existing condition. But they can charge you more.
  • You can still keep your kids on the plan until age 26, if you can afford their premiums.
  • Cuts Medicaid expansion and gut Medicaid coverage:  Starting in 2020 the federal government would stop funding people newly qualified for Medicaid.  The bill also ends the guarantee that every eligible person will get Medicaid coverage.  States would get a lump sum per person too small to keep up with rising medical costs, forcing states to slash the number of recipients eligible,  benefits, and/or  reimbursement to doctors.
  • End taxes that paid for Obamacare such as new payroll taxes on wealthy people, taxes on tanning parlors and certain health care companies.  The GOP has not announced any plan for how it would fund its plan.
  • Eliminates penalties for employers who don’t provide healthcare to workers and weakens requirements for coverage in those plans, as well as coverage in private plans.
  • Amends the Social Security Act to gut protections for orphaned children, widows and widowers:  A little-known provision would  end preventive screenings and other health benefits provided by SSI to children who lose a parent through death and to widows or widowers.

 

 Trump tweeted Thursday that “healthcare is coming along great. We are talking to many groups and it will end in a beautiful picture!”

But major healthcare stakeholders such as doctors’ and hospital groups say that they have not been consulted. The GOP drafted its bill behind closed doors and pushed it through a key committee without allowing time for analysis and public input.

The bill was approved by two key committees this week.  Vice President Mike Pence has stated he believes it will become law this spring.  But he adds, “"If there are ways to improve that bill and to give people greater confidence that we all are going to arrive at the same place ... then that's where we're headed."

 But even some Republicans supportive of repealing the ACA are voicing concern over the fast-tracked process. Other conservatives argue that it doesn’t go far enough to eliminate what they call “entitlements.”  But Americans have paid into Medicare and Social Security, so they are entitled to receive the benefits for which they paid. Four Republican Senators have also voiced concerns over cuts in Medicare/Medicaid.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, a Libertarian-leaning Republican,  criticized the bill as “Obamacare Lite” because it contains tax cuts; he favors a free marketing approach where government would provide no help to anyone to afford healthcare.

The bill has drawn strong opposition from Democrats.  San Diego Congresswoman Susan Davis, a Democrat, tweeted, “After having their healthcare bill under lock and key, refusing to let anyone read it, the GOP have finally freed the bill. After looking at it, I think they should have kept it hidden.”

Educators and labor groups are also weighing to voice concerns over impacts on students working people.

“Cuts to Medicaid would shortchange school districts that provide health services to our most  vulnerable students and wreak havoc on state budgets,” says Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “Repealing the ACA will have substantial effects on jobs too; experts estimate that it could cost Americans up to 2.5 million jobs in 2019 alone.”  

Weingarten acknowledges that the ACA needs to be fixed, an admission even the ACA’s strongest supporters acknowledge, but opposes repeal unless a replacement toffers better, more affordable coverage.  One of the biggest problems of the ACA has been affordability.  Republicans have promised everyone will have “access” to healthcare---but access is meaningless if you can’t afford to pay for it.

“Of course the ACA had its problems and needed to be fixed, but this plan does none of that,” the teachers’ leader concludes.  “It rips healthcare away from Americans to give huge tax breaks to the wealthy, which is about as cruel as it gets. This isn’t a healthcare plan—it’s a massive giveaway to insurance companies and those at the top, while it hits America’s families with a triple whammy of less coverage, higher costs and more taxes. “

Across the nation,  Congressional members are facing large crowds at town hall meetings from constituents concerned about healthcare changes.  Constituents are being urged by activist groups to call their members of Congress and speak out. 

Two local Congressional members are holding town hall meetings this Saturday. 

Democrat Susan Davis’ website states that her venue at SDSU has reached capacity at 1,200.  RSVPs were accepted in advance for her event.

Republican Duncan Hunter will hold a town hall Saturday March 11 at  10 a.m. at the Ramona Main Stage.  Activists on both sides are planning to arrive as early as 7 a.m. since this event is first-come, first-serve. The venue seats only about 325 people.

Below is contact information for San Diego County’s five Congressional representatives:

 

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

San Diego’s Eastern Region includes all or portions of 5 Congressional districts:

49th district – Daryl Issa (R)

e-mail:  http://issa.house.gov/contact/contact-me

Washington:  Phone (202) 225-3906; fax (202) 225-3303

Vista:  Phone (760) 599-5000; fax (760)  599-1178

Website:  www.house.gov/issa

District office: 1800 Thibodo Road, #310 Vista, CA 92083

Website: http://issa.house.gov/

 

50th district – Duncan Hunter (F)

e-mail: https://forms.house.gov/hunter/webforms/zipauthen_contact.shtml

Washington D.C.  Phone: 202-225-5672 Fax: 202-225-0235

El Cajon:  Phone: 619-448-5201 Fax: 619-449-2251

District office:  1611 Magnolia Ave., Suite 310 El Cajon, CA 92020

Website: http://www.hunter.house.gov/

 

51st district -  Juan Vargas (D)

e-mail: https://vargas.house.gov/contact/email-me

Washington D.C. Phone: 202-225-8045 Fax: 202-225-9073

San Diego Phone: 619-422-5963 Fax: 619-422-7290

District office:  333 F Street, #A Chula Vista, CA 91910-2624

Website: http://vargas.house.gov/

 

52nd District -- Scott Peters (D)

e-mail:  http://scottpeters.house.gov/contact

2410 Rayburn House Office Bldg. Washington, DC 20515

Phone: 202-225-0808 Fax: 202-225-2558

4350 Executive Drive, Suite 105 San Diego, CA 92122

 Phone: 858-455-5550

Website: http://scottpeters.house.gov/

 

53rd district:  Susan Davis (D)

e-mail:  www.house.gov/susandavis/contact.shtml

Washington: Phone: (202) 225-2040; Fax: (202) 225-2948

San Diego:  Phone: (619) 280-5353; Fax: (619) 280-5311

District office: 2700 Adams Avenue, #102 San Diego, CA 92116

Website: www.house.gov/susandavis

 

Don’t know who your Congressional representative is?



Type in your zip code at this link to find out:  www.house.gov/writerep

 

Sources for this article:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/new-details-emerge-on-gop-plans-to-repeal-and-replace-obamacare/2017/03/06/04751e3e-028f-11e7-ad5b-d22680e18d10_story.html?utm_term=.dd1d34b23f25

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-obamacare-proposal-idUSKBN1632E4

https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucejapsen/2017/03/08/ama-says-trumpcare-is-critically-flawed/#691961a1847c

 

http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-sac-tax-credits-abortion-20170308-story.html

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/03/10/rand-paul-house-gops-obamacare-replacement-is-dead-on-arrival.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/house-republicans-obamacare-repeal_us_58bdf877e4b09ab537d63e57?fdstwkxjjum1da38fr&&