The Unilateral TrumpCare Bill Makes Matters Worse
With a House vote looming, it’s still not too late to take a sensible approach to healthcare in America by seeking bipartisan solutions rather than outright repealing the Affordable Care Act.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has confirmed that under the American Health Care Act, more than 24 million people will lose health insurance in the next decade, 14 million of them in 2018 alone. And those who are lucky enough to hold onto their coverage will be forced to pay more for it.
As he laid the groundwork for this bill in January, President Trump promised to deliver “insurance for everybody.” But the legislation dismantling the Affordable Care Act rips coverage away from millions who now have it thanks to the ACA.
Who are these people? They are the middle-class and working families living paycheck-to-paycheck. They are residents of rural areas. They are children, seniors and people with disabilities. They include Americans who will be dropped from their employers’ health plans.
Sadly, many in Congress are turning a blind eye to the possibility of such shocking coverage losses. Instead, they argue this bill will save people money.
President Trump said, “Our plan will be much better healthcare at a much lower cost.” Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price even promised, “nobody will be worse off financially.” In reality, however, the bill will hit American pocketbooks hard.
It slashes the support offered by the Affordable Care Act’s premium tax credits by nearly half. For example, according to the CBO, a 64 year-old whose income is $26,500, which is 175 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, pays $1,700 out of her own pocket on premiums under current law. Under the new proposal, that same woman would pay $14,600 in premiums. Forcing people to pay this much is an unworkable solution for the middle class and people with limited incomes, and the Manager’s Amendment shows that House Republican leadership is not serious about righting this wrong.
Second, in 2018 and 2019, the CBO projects that premiums will actually spike by 15 percent to 20 percent on top of increases that are already expected under current law. Insurance companies that participate in the exchanges agree that premiums are likely to spike. Molina, for example, projected that health insurance premiums will go up by an additional 30 percent on top of regular annual increases.
Third, premiums are going to get a lot more expensive for adults over age 50, since the new bill lets insurance companies charge them much higher premiums than what’s allowed under current law. The CBO estimates that this age tax will make premiums so unaffordable for older adults that many will be forced off their health insurance. A typical senior seeking coverage on the exchanges has a $25,000 annual income. For these seniors, AARP estimates the new proposal will increase premiums by as much as $3,600 for a 55 year-old and $7,000 for a 64 year-old.
Meanwhile, life events such as changing jobs, getting married, having a baby, or being dropped from an employer’s plan could cause a gap in coverage. If that happens, this bill allows insurance companies to be able to charge a 30 percent higher premium, adding thousands of dollars onto already unbearable costs. This sick tax will punish 30 million Americans with all different types of insurance. It will make coverage so unaffordable that only patients with pre-existing conditions will have an incentive to pay the penalty to buy insurance.
But the strain on your wallet does not end with higher premiums. The CBO projects that this bill will also dramatically increase out-of-pocket costs. Despite all the concern about deductibles, the bill includes a provision allowing insurance companies to raise your deductible and coinsurance rates. Just like the sick tax, this provision hurts patients most. Insurance companies will have every incentive to raise deductibles in order to deter patients with expensive pre-existing conditions from enrolling or make them pay more when they choose to enroll.
There is bipartisan agreement that Congress should improve the Affordable Care Act and do more to bring down premiums, deductibles, and out-of-pocket costs, but this bill doesn’t solve those problems. Instead, it makes them all much worse, and health care more expensive.
I urge all our colleagues to throw out the American Health Care Act and instead work across the aisle to make coverage more affordable. With a little political courage, Congress can accomplish this goal for the American people without hurting millions of them in the process.
Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), Chief Deputy Whip, is a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee and was a key voice on shaping and passing the Affordable Care Act.