After seven years of threatening to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as “Obamacare,” the House GOP finally passed a measure that, in the kindest terms, will be a death sentence for many Americans. And that is no exaggeration.
Paul Waldman of The Washington Post did not mince words, and said as much, calling the bill “not just wrong, or misguided, or problematic or foolish. It is an abomination.”
And indeed it is. The GOP cobbled together a specious patchwork of mini-deals in order to garner just enough votes to rush the bill through the House before the Congressional Budget Office had time to score it and without any hearings on the provisions within it. The haphazard deal-making demonstrated that President Trump and Paul Ryan desperately needed the win for its mere symbolic value to the GOP’s base, the bill’s real impact on the lives of Americans be damned.
Waldman explained exactly why this bill is a catastrophe to the American people. The bill:
- Takes health insurance away from at least 24 million Americans; that was the number the CBO estimated for a previous version of the bill, and the number for this one is probably higher.
- Revokes the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid, which provided no-cost health coverage to millions of low-income Americans.
- Turns Medicaid into a block grant, enabling states to kick otherwise-eligible people off their coverage and cut benefits if they so choose.
- Slashes Medicaid overall by $880 billion over 10 years.
- Removes the subsidies that the ACA provided to help middle-income people afford health insurance, replacing them with far more meager tax credits pegged not to people’s income but to their age. Poorer people would get less than they do now, while richer people would get more; even Bill Gates would get a tax credit.
- Allows insurers to charge dramatically higher premiums to older patients.
- Allows insurers to impose yearly and lifetime caps on coverage, which were outlawed by the ACA. This also, it was revealed today, may threaten the coverage of the majority of non-elderly Americans who get insurance through their employers.
- Allows states to seek waivers from the ACA’s requirement that insurance plans include essential benefits for things such as emergency services, hospitalization, mental health care, preventive care, maternity care, and substance abuse treatment.
- Provides hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts for families making over $250,000 a year.
- Produces higher deductibles for patients.
- Allows states to try to waive the ACA’s requirement that insurers must charge people the same rates regardless of their medical history. This effectively eviscerates the ban on denials for preexisting conditions, since insurers could charge you exorbitant premiums if you have a preexisting condition, effectively denying you coverage.
- Shunts those with preexisting conditions into high-risk pools, which are absolutely the worst way to cover those patients; experience with them on the state level proves that they wind up underfunded, charge enormous premiums, provide inadequate benefits and can’t cover the population they’re meant for. Multiple analyses have shown that the money the bill provides for high-risk pools is laughably inadequate, which will inevitably leave huge numbers of the most vulnerable Americans without the ability to get insurance.
- Brings back medical underwriting, meaning that just like in the bad old days, when you apply for insurance you’ll have to document every condition or ailment you’ve ever had.
The bill has a stiffer hill to climb in the Senate. But, eventually, the CBO will release its analysis, and the American Medical Association and other professional organizations will let the American people know about the true effect of the GOP’s Frankenstein’s monster. And if the CBO and independent analyses conclude that the bill will cause even a part of the potential effects Waldman lists above, the GOP’s rushed pursuit of a symbolic victory will likely have rushed them out of their majority in 2018, even if the bill does not pass the Senate.
Progressives should certainly mobilize further and make sure that the bill stalls in the upper chamber. For now, however, it appears that many GOP congressmen may very well have pulled the plug on their political futures.
After the final votes were tallied, Democrats offered this chant to their GOP colleagues.