Take Action: June 27, 2017 Follow Up on the Healthcare Bill CBO Estimate

Today, the Congressional Budget Office released its scoring of the Senate’s healthcare bill, the Better Care through Reconciliation Act. According to the CBO estimate, a whopping 22 million people would lose health insurance between now and 2026—only 1 million fewer than under the House Bill (AHCA). While we at MWEG recognize that the Affordable Care Act has flaws and we support thoughtful bipartisan reform to strengthen the market and decrease personal medical costs, we cannot support a bill that will leave so many vulnerable patients without protection.

Please reach out to your senators daily and urge them to vote against this bill. Tell them that we MUST NOT ALLOW important patient protections such as the Medicaid expansion and the current definition of “essential health benefits” to be lost. We also ask that you consider sharing information about the CBO report with your friends and family and encourage them to contact their senators as well.

Our issues with the bill are:

—Under the Senate’s BCRA, after seven years the ACA’s Medicaid expansion (allowing Medicaid programs to cover many “working poor” families) will end and the Medicaid program itself will be tied to the rate of inflation rather than medical inflation (which rises much faster), which means that the funds available for the program will be outpaced by the need for it. (I’m going to be doing a non-Code Purple education post about what the Medicaid expansion is and why the BCRA’s Medicaid cuts go beyond simply taking the program back to where it was pre-ACA soon.)

—The Senate’s bill will also disqualify patients from the Medicaid expansion (while the expansion lasts) if they are over 65, or if they are pregnant women. In many states, disabled retirees and pregnant women comprise the bulk of Medicaid enrollees.

—In addition, the Senate’s AHCA will allow states to “redefine” the phrase “essential health benefits,” giving them the option to opt out of crucial health coverages like prescription care, maternity benefits, inpatient and outpatient care, mental health care, pediatric care, and more. As Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut said, “If [the] GOP repeal bill ends essential benefits protection, it also ends preexisting conditions protection.” While insurers will still be required to cover people with preexisting conditions, they will have the ability to offer plans to sick people that don’t cover treatment of their conditions, and impose lifetime spending caps on specific aspects of a person’s health plan, such as prescription care. They will also be able to deny or charge more for plans with maternity coverage to all women, based on the possibility that they *might* become pregnant.

—The ability to opt out of essential health benefits will also open up insurers to the possibility of imposing lifetime caps on specific aspects of employer-sponsored group health insurance plans, something that could be catastrophic for people with expensive health conditions who rely on employer health insurance to cover their treatments.

—Costs for older Americans will rise steeply under the BCRA, as insurance companies will be allowed to charge them much more than they do currently. According to the CBO analysis, a 64-year-old making just under 60k will end up paying more than 20k in insurance premiums, compared to just 5k currently.

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