Cause for celebration? 

By Victoria Fortuna

The American Health Care Act (AHCA) was passed on May 4, 2017, by the House after a few hours of hasty consideration of recent amendments. Rep. [Tom] Garrett [Jr., Virginia Republican], admitted that he did not even read the bill, but relied on his staff’s summary, before he voted to approve it. After the narrow vote of approval 217-213, the GOP members of the House had a big celebration with the president.

Why celebrate? And why was this done so quickly?

Looking at the details, we can see why the GOP House members are so happy:

They, and their wealthy donors, will get a huge tax windfall, estimated by the CBO, in its March 13, 2017 report, for the prior bill to be $600 billion. This was accomplished through the elimination of two taxes on the high earners. It is estimated that per year: the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans will realize a tax windfall of $33,000, the top richest 0.1 percent will reap $197,000 and the top 400 earners will benefit by $7 million!

Now that is something to celebrate about if you are in that category, which includes, of course, most of Congress, President Trump and his billionaire cronies.

People who didn’t get a subsidy under the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) including the wealthy, will now get a subsidy if they purchase insurance in the individual market. That’s right, individuals making up to $115,000 and couples earning up to $230,000 who purchase individual insurance coverage will get a tax credit depending on age to subsidize the cost of health coverage. This is a waste of precious resources and is not expected to increase health insurance coverage rates.

And what do we middle class people get?

Well, if you are a certain age like me, your premiums can be expected to rise since the AHCA will allow insurers to charge up to 5 times as much as they charge a 20 year old. Under Obamacare, the cost ratio was restricted to 3:1. The CBO report estimated that under the AHCA, insurance premiums for a 64 year-old making $26,000 would rise from $1,700 with Obamacare, to $14,000 under the AHCA.

And we’ll be back to an insurance world where we are comparing apples to oranges in the fine print, since the states can allow insurers to offer policies that don’t cover essential health benefits that were required to be covered under Obamacare. The AHCA will allow us to be charged more for policies that cover fewer health conditions.

If you are disabled and covered by Medicaid, watch out. Your Medicaid coverage is on the chopping block. The AHCA will shift $370 billion in federal Medicaid cost to the states over 10 years, and the changes are projected by industry experts to reduce coverage and access to needed care, including mental health and substance abuse treatment. This is the largest cut to the program since its inception and targets our most vulnerable citizens.

If you have a pre-existing condition, your costs will go up as well, since the insurance protections afforded under Obamacare will be gutted under the AHCA. Yes, the AHCA tried to address this with a solution: high risk pools for people with serious health issues. This did not work before Obamacare, and experts agree that it is unlikely to work now.

Widely quoted news sources indicate that at least 24 million people will lose coverage under the AHCA.

Lots of cause for celebration for the wealthy, not so much for the rest of us.

Thanks, Rep. Garrett and President Trump, you’ve betrayed us. The AHCA isn’t law yet, so we can only hope that the Senate will steer the effort in a more positive and fair direction to actually help people who need it: America’s working families.

The writer lives in Woodville

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