By ED FINKELSTEIN
As the controversial Republican health care bill moves to the U.S. Senate, the proposed House version has two shocking aspects (among many):
- Workers who have employer-sponsored programs could be negatively impacted;
- The bill’s limitations on all of us do NOT apply to congressmen and their staffs!
That’s on top of the fact that the House proposal is really a tax cut plan for the rich disguised as a health care overhaul of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).
TAX CUT FOR WEALTHY
The Republican bill cuts Medicaid funding by $880 billion over 10 years to pay for the yet-to-be-finalized Trump tax cut plan, most of which goes to the very wealthy. As a result, 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.
Tax cuts on the backs of seniors, the poor and yes, even union families, are the basis of Trump’s tax cut plan.
UNION PLANS AT RISK
And for all those union members who thought Trump was for them, here’s another big surprise: your employer-provided health care could be changed at the employer’s whim!
The House proposal allows states to seek a waiver from the government that would allow employers to opt out of providing essential services such as emergency care, hospitalization, prescription drug coverage, mental health services, chronic disease management, preventive care, maternity care and more in their union health plans.
One prominent local labor attorney agreed that if the final law allowed employers to opt out of
providing any number of services, then employers could legally implement those changes in their existing union health plans.
No union contract would be safe if the House bill were to pass the Senate in its current form and become law.
BUT CONGRESS IS SAFE!
A recent headline shouted: “GOP’s Obamacare-repeal plan would give Congress and its staff special treatment.”
Lindsay Wise, of the McClatchy Washington Bureau, explained:
“The new proposal would allow members of Congress, their families and their employees to have access to the same list of benefits that Obamacare guarantees, and the insurance companies couldn’t charge them more if they were old or sick.”
Cynthia Cox, associate director of health reform and private insurance with Kaiser Family Foundation, said: “Basically what this does is make it so the members of Congress would be guaranteed to continue to receive certain consumer protections that might be repealed or waived for some of their constituents.”
AND A KICKER
“Even if the exemption gets removed, members of Congress, their relatives and staffers with pre-existing conditions would still be protected because a provision in the Affordable Care Act requires them to buy their insurance through the Small Business Market in the District of Columbia,” Wise notes.
“Under (Trumpcare) the waivers only apply to the individual market, not the Small Business Market (where Congress has their health care).”
A DISASTER OF A HEALTH CARE BILL
When looking at the proposed House bill, the negative impact on America’s working families is staggering, despite the positive spin Republicans are putting on it because they pledged to repeal and replace Obamacare at any cost.
Some of the highlights include:
• Out-of-pocket spending caps: Under Obamacare, there were caps; under 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. It would, however, 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 senior 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 higher premiums for pre-existing conditions: This could raise rates to levels that people cannot afford. Some 25 million people ages 50 to 64 have a pre-existing 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 pools with sky-high premiums to cover people with pre-existing conditions. That tab could reach $25,700 per person a year in 2019, according to AARP’s Public Policy Institute.
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 the additional $8 billion put into the proposal at the last minute to help people with pre-existing conditions, a move many saw as a “bribe” to win over two holdouts – Springfield, MO Representative Bill Long and Fred Upton of Michigan – would last only 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 weaken its ability to pay for future services.
MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD
If you’re unhappy with this, you need to make your voice heard.
In Missouri, write to Republican Senator Roy Blunt at 260 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510; email him at email@example.com or call his office in Washington at 202-224-5721 or St. Louis at 314-725-4484.
We know where Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill and Illinois Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth stand. They support the Affordable Care Act, which put into place reforms that strengthen the quality of care in the United States and attempts to tame the out-of-control increases in the cost of medical care. They’re in favor of common-sense efforts to improve the ACA.