Dead on Arrival: On the Healthcare Bill
The eight year long Republican wet dream of repealing The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has finally materialized. The lovechild of corporate greed and conservative delusion, the American Health Care Act (AHCA) does not shy away from the notion that healthcare is a privilege, warranting widespread complaints from the far left to the far right in Congress.
According to a report analyzing the bill’s potential economic impact released by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the number of uninsured Americans would rise by 14 million by the end of 2018, merely one year after its intended enactment. The report stated by the year 2026, the number would rise to 52 million uninsured people, “compared with 28 million who would lack insurance that year under current law.”
Given the long history of Congressional Republican’s fervent outcry against Obamacare, along with the ample amount of time they had to develop a well-constructed health care plan, the announcement of the Republican-sponsored ACA replacement was met with high anticipation. However, the hasty release of the highly-flawed bill faces unexpected criticism by healthcare professionals, insurance providers, and Republicans hesitant to back a failing bill anchored to the sinking ship of the Trump Administration.
Speaker Paul Ryan recently latched onto the selling point of an expected reduction of $337 billion in the federal deficit. Strategically, Ryan’s pitch appeals to the party’s base of fiscal conservatism while simultaneously ignoring the consequences of a proposed $1.2 trillion decrease in direct federal spending on healthcare. The new bill specifically reduces spending for Medicaid by $880 billion over the next nine years. The Medicaid program serves as health insurance for more than 74 million low-income children, adults, seniors and disabled Americans who cannot afford private insurance, or whose severe health problems require greater benefits than available to them. Without Medicaid, the poorest and most vulnerable people in this country would lose their health security. Amongst complaints by conservatives that the bill does not stray far enough from its predecessor, one mark of distinction is abundantly clear: while the ACA expanded Medicaid, providing coverage for 11 million people, its replacement threatens the coverage of 20% of Americans. It’s hard to imagine how the ACHA could ever be considered a replacement national health care program when its main initiatives involve stripping coverage from millions of Americans. This bill rejects the poor, elderly, and sick. Where it repeals it does not replace. It rewards the healthy, wealthy elite of this country while making insurance a luxury for poor, middle and working-class people.
In a press release by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the administration preaches a newfound element of choice available with the AHCA; the freedom to choose your doctor, coverage plan, and to make your own decisions regarding healthcare. Secretary of Health Tom Price stated, “Our reform effort will ensure patients and physicians are the ones making medical decisions, not Washington, and provide relief to those being harmed by the current healthcare system.” However, if there’s one thing the AHCA certainly stands firm on, it is eliminating the ability of women to exercise their freedom of choice regarding their healthcare decisions, specifically abortion and reproductive health services.
The majority of federal funding for Planned Parenthood exists in the form of reimbursement for the care provided to patients on Medicaid. Eliminating this funding means those women on Medicaid who rely on Planned Parenthood for their care will be forced to find another provider who will accept Medicaid—an entity at threat of extinction itself under the new bill. In addition, the AHCA goes further to prohibit the use of federal tax credits for purchasing any health plan covering abortion, essentially making abortion a financial impossibility for many women for whom it may be a necessity. The report released by the CBO stated, “The people most likely to experience reduced access to care would probably reside in areas without other health care clinics or medical practitioners who serve low-income populations. CBO projects that about 15 percent of those people would lose access to care.” Caught in the constantly targeted intersection of socioeconomic class and gender, millions of women will be disproportionately harmed by the American Health Care Act’s neglect of their needs and autonomy.
After years of campaign promises, telling one thing to the wealthy behind closed doors and another to the masses and media in huge convention halls, Republicans must now package and sell the sacrifice of their constituents access to health care as a win for everyone. The reality is this bill will disproportionately make insurance more expensive and inaccessible to the nation’s most vulnerable, while providing tax breaks to the rich and bestowing greater discretional power to insurance companies. The broader consequences of this bill, and the tax breaks which will pass in following, include a widening of the already-massive income gap and a destabilization of the healthcare market. Amidst their patriotic pathos, politicians mask self-serving incentives. While exploiting the struggles everyday Americans feel, preaching fairness for all, they quietly enjoy the security of a cushy health care program paid for by their constituents.