Less care for higher cost, all the while providing billions in tax breaks to the super wealthy.
This week in the Budget Committee, I had the opportunity to take a close look at the latest Republican attack on health care and the middle class, otherwise known as the American Health Care Act ― or, as I call it, Trumpcare. It should come as no surprise to anyone that the Republican Party appears unable to repeal and replace the ACA with any meaningful improvements for anyone but their wealthiest friends. It has become increasingly clear that the Republican Pay More for Less Care Act is nothing but a massive tax cut for the wealthy and well-connected, at the expense of middle-class Americans, seniors, and our most vulnerable—a rallying cry for Democrats and Independents across the country.
For seven years, Republicans have promised us all a mysterious “better way” to achieve the health care gains of the ACA—which is, by the way, the market-based framework first proposed by the conservative Heritage Foundation. President Trump repeatedly promised “insurance for everybody” that is “much less expensive” and “much better.” Yet, the Republican proposal he endorsed would force working-class Americans to pay more for less coverage and, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), kick almost 25 million Americans off their health coverage. It’s a $300 billion tax cut for corporations and the wealthy, funded by gutting $880 billion from Medicaid, burdening older Americans, and shifting health care costs onto states and working families. Premiums and out-of-pocket costs would skyrocket, especially for working-class and older Americans. Republicans claim that these costs have already gone up under the ACA, but the fact is Obamacare slowed the health care cost curve that had been growing out of control. The GOP plan would reverse this progress through decreased coverage and increased consumer costs.
Trump also promised us no cuts to Medicare or Medicaid. This bill breaks those promises, too. Under the Republican plan, seniors would be required to pay higher taxes and premiums that are five times higher than their younger counterparts and, for good measure, three years would be taken off the solvency of Medicare. Medicaid, which serves our most vulnerable Americans, would be slashed through individual caps and a repeal of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion that has served as a lifeline to tens of millions. One in five Medicaid recipients are children! 670,000 Pennsylvanians who have gained health insurance through the ACA’s Medicaid expansion hang in the balance.
At the same time, this bill would provide billions of dollars in tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, including a tax break for insurance company executives making over $500,000 per year. Incredibly, the bill bankrolls a $2.8 billion tax cut for the 400 richest families in America per year, while poor families are stripped of the affordable care many received for the first time thanks to the ACA. And, of course, repealing the ACA’s tax subsidies and replacing them with a smaller tax credit would raise taxes significantly on about 7 million low and moderate-income families. At a time of unprecedented income inequality on the heels of an election where our president promised the world to blue-collar Americans across the country, this massive backdoor transfer of wealth is nothing short of offensive.
Republicans like to accuse Democrats of “ramming Obamacare through.” While that could not be further from the truth, ironically, it is exactly what Republicans are doing now. The Affordable Care Act was drafted after nearly one hundred hours of public hearings over two years. Democrats adopted 30 Republican amendments during committee markups, and posted the bill online for thirty days before the first committee markup. In contrast, Republicans literally kept their bill hidden in a secured location in the basement of the U.S. Capitol, posting it online less than 48 hours before committee markup. There have been no public hearings on the bill, and they began their markup process before the CBO even completed its impartial cost analysis for the proposed bill. After bashing the Affordable Care Act for years, refusing to collaborate on its improvement, and promising a better replacement plan for $450 billion industry, this lack of transparency is inexcusable and offensive.
The Affordable Care Act—commonly known as Obamacare—was a giant step forward for American health care. It insured over 20 million previously uninsured Americans and slowed premium growth to a remarkably low level. Since the ACA became law, the average premium growth rate has been 40 percent lower than that of the decade prior. The past five years account for five of the six slowest growth rates since 1999, according to a long-term study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Before the ACA, individuals were regularly denied coverage due to preexisting conditions, and those who were lucky enough to obtain affordable coverage were often unable to achieve full health due to barbaric yearly and lifetime caps. Young adults often went without health insurance and were forced to forgo necessary care before the ACA allowed them to stay on their parents’ plan until they turned 26. Premiums were spiking thanks to unchecked abuses by insurance companies.
While an imperfect bill, thanks to the ACA, today a record number of Americans now have access to life-saving health care. Trumpcare represents a giant step backward: it provides less care for higher cost and puts health care out of reach for Americans most in need, all the while providing billions in tax breaks to the super wealthy. I will stand up and fight to do everything I can to stop this harmful proposal and instead call on my Republican colleagues to finally come to the table to work with Democrats to improve the current ACA framework—which they have refused to do since 2010. Democrats will continue to fight for affordable and accessible care for all Americans regardless of age or income. It is my hope that the American public will continue to stand with us, opposing this dangerous proposal at town halls across the country.
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