House Passes American Health Care Act

Not American in Spirit or Health Care in Substance

For Immediate Release
Contact:
Matthew Shepard, 860-456-7790
mshepard@medicareadvocacy.org

May 4, 2017 WASHINGTON, DC — “By four votes, the House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA) today, a bill that guts the Affordable Care Act (ACA), decimates Medicaid, and undermines Medicare,” stated Judith Stein, founder and executive director of the Center for Medicare Advocacy. “In order to secure additional votes,” she continued, “the bill only got worse for American families. Simply stated, this is not a health care bill.”

The American Health Care Act repeals protections in ACA that prohibit insurance companies from discriminating against individuals due to a pre-existing condition. Instead, the bill allows insurance companies to charge Americans with pre-existing conditions more – some estimates suggest up to $25,000 more.

Further, recent additions to the bill allow States to shift people with pre-existing conditions out of the general insurance market and into “High Risk Pools,” where they would obtain insurance. A new provision added money for states that decide to depend on these High Risk Pools. This, in turn, could encourage states to drop full protection for people with pre-existing conditions. Thus, this version of AHCA is even worse than the earlier version for people with serious health needs.

The rushed House vote proceeded despite not having an updated Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score to account for recent changes to the bill. One thing is certain, however; the bill did not improve on the earlier version, which was scored. The most recent CBO report highlighted the devastating impact of the original AHCA bill, introduced on March 6th. The CBO found, among other things: AHCA would leave 24 million people uninsured by 2026, increase premiums and out-of-pocket costs, particularly for older adults and individuals with lower incomes, cut Medicaid by $880 billion over the next ten years, and reduce Medicare’s economic stability by about four years. 

The American Health Care Act also allows states to waive “essential health benefits,” the basic set of benefits, including maternity care, emergency services, preventive services, mental health care, and hospitalizations, which all insurers currently must offer. The bill also allows plans to charge older people five times as much as younger ones, and allows states to waive that rule and establish an even higher ratio. This age tax will lead to substantially higher premiums for older people, and force many to choose low quality plans, or no coverage at all.

Another threat from this legislation hurts individuals who obtain health insurance through their employers – about 50% of Americans. The Affordable Care Act banned insurers from setting annual and lifetime limits on coverage, which are limits on the amount a plan will pay for someone’s care in a given year or over someone’s lifetime. Under the new bill, however, employer plans could once again include such coverage limits, risking the health and well-being of the millions of American families that get insurance through employment. The ACA also capped the annual amount a person could be required to spend out-of-pocket.

The legislation passed today allows employer-based plans to pick from any of the 50 states’ essential health benefit packages when implementing these protections. Therefore, if one state in the country reduces the essential benefits that plans are required to cover, plans in every state would be able to do so.

“The AHCA now moves to the Senate and reports indicate the legislation will have to undergo extensive revisions in order to pass there,” said Ms. Stein. “It is surely too soon to tell, however, or to count on better health care coverage any time soon. The American Health Care Act is not American in spirit or health care in substance. It will make America sicker. These are frightening times for people who need quality health coverage and care.”

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The Center for Medicare Advocacy, Inc., established in 1986, is a national nonprofit, nonpartisan law organization that provides education, advocacy and legal assistance to help older people and people with disabilities obtain fair access to Medicare and quality health care. The Center is headquartered in Connecticut and Washington, DC with offices throughout the country.