The Labor Tribune

Labor News From Our Region

Republican House passes tax cut disguised as a health care bill

Trump needs health care cuts to pay for ‘feed-the-wealthy’ tax cut; Trumpcare would devastate seniors, all families

By ED FINKELSTEIN
Publisher

In recent weeks, the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives, desperately trying to give the Trump administration something to crow about since his first 100 days have been a legislative disaster, passed a tax cut bill disguised as a health care proposal to replace President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA, commonly known as Obamacare).

As part of the deal, American workers, seniors, poor and the very sick get screwed.

And the wealthy, they make out like bandits. Opposing the new bill are hospitals and consumer groups, including AARP, the premier defender of seniors.

Before getting into the details of the bill, readers need to know that this Trumpcare disaster will cut Medicaid funding by $880 billion over 10 years meaning that more than 17 million low-income seniors, children and adults with disabilities who rely on Medicaid, risk losing access to critical long-term services and support.

This money would be used to pay for Trump’s proposed tax cuts for the top 10 percent —America’s millionaires and billionaires. Small businesses get a few crumbs. Working families get even less.

For a week now, news reports have made the point that Trump’s proposed “revolutionary” tax plan is little more than a scam: it needs the savings of the Medicaid cuts to work. Without them, only gained by decimating the benefits gained under Obamacare, the tax cut for the wealthiest Americans will add billions to the deficit.

Here’s how the proposed bill, which still must pass the U.S. Senate where it’s expected to have real difficulty, will impact everyone:

IMPACT ON WORKERS

  • Employers have free rein for changes: States are to be given the right to allow employers to opt out of providing “essential services” like lifetime limit prohibitions, emergency services, hospitalization, prescription drug coverage, mental health services, chronic disease management, preventive care, maternity care, and more.

Given what Missouri has already done to workers by passing the phony, anti-worker so-called “right-to-work,” do you think our Republican legislators, backed by a bought-and-paid-for Governor, will fight employers’ efforts to trim their health care costs by cutting benefits and once again imposing lifetime limits?

Obamacare imposed strict rules to prevent this; Trumpcare let’s the states (make that the wealthy employers who fund campaigns) decide.

  • Out-of-pocket spending caps: Under Obamacare, there were caps; under this Trumpcare there will be NO caps.
  • Change jobs and temporarily lose insurance? Trumpcare will allow states to get a waiver allowing health care companies to charge workers more money for their plan if they have a break in their coverage.
  • Eliminates pre-existing conditions protection: That’s right, it allows health care companies to charge more for a policy where there are pre-existing conditions. Obamacare prevented it.
  • Does nothing to address the high cost of prescription drugs: Consumers with chronic illnesses have seen the price of their medications more than double since 2006, and this legislation would do nothing to help lower costs. At the same time, it would hand a $200 billion windfall in tax breaks to special interests like drug makers and insurance companies.

IMPACT ON SENIORS, RETIREES

Here’s the AARP’s summary of the bill’s impact for seniors 50 and above:

  • Imposes an age tax: Insurers could charge older adults five times what younger consumers pay for health insurance — up from three times what younger people pay, under the current law.
  • Reduces seniors’ tax credits: At the same time it allows seniors to be charged more, the bill would reduce tax credits that help older adults afford their coverage in the first place. This “age tax” could increase annual premiums for seniors by $13,000, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
  • Leaves millions without health insurance. Under this legislation, as many as 24 million people would lose their health care coverage within a decade, according to the CBO.
  • Allows states to charge even more: Making matters worse, states could receive a federal waiver that would allow insurers to charge seniors even more than five times what younger people pay.
  • Allows higher premiums for preexisting conditions: This could raise rates to levels that people cannot afford. Some 25 million people ages 50 to 64 have a preexisting condition, such as cancer, diabetes or heart disease. They are protected under current law from paying more for insurance than those without such conditions.
  • Creates phony high-risk pools: States could create so-called “high-risk pools”  with sky-high premiums to cover people with preexisting conditions. That tab could reach $25,700 per person a year in 2019, according to AARP’s Public Policy Institute.

The tragic truth – high-risk pools are not a viable solution. When they were used before the passage of the Affordable Care Act, they put such a financial burden on states that benefits were limited, and enrollment in them was capped.

One expert said that the $8 Billion  of additional money now included in the proposed bill – he called it a “bribe” was only put into the proposal at the last minute to win over two who were voting “no,” saying it would only last a few months.

  • Undermines Medicare’s financial health: By reducing Medicare’s revenue, the bill would hasten the program’s insolvency by as much as four years and weakens its ability to pay for future services.

BY ONE VOTE

With a lot of arm twisting, including a visit with President D.J. Trump, several key holdouts collapsed, including Missouri’s Rep. Bill Long (R-Springfield), opting to accept the White House’s misrepresentation as the truth when in fact the new changes have made the proposal worse!

The bill passed by one vote: with 216 needed, it received 217, with 213 voting “no.” The Missouri delegation voted along party lines: all R’s voting “yes,” all D’s voting: NO.”

Representative Long can be proud that he screwed workers in his District to help the millionaires there

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