The Plum Line, this morning:
I won’t mince words. The health-care bill that the House of Representatives passed this afternoon, in an incredibly narrow 217-to-213 vote, is not just wrong, or misguided, or problematic or foolish. It is an abomination. If there has been a piece of legislation in our lifetimes that boiled over with as much malice and indifference to human suffering, I can’t recall what it might have been. And every member of the House who voted for it must be held accountable.
There’s certainly a process critique one can make about this bill. We might focus on the fact that Republicans are rushing to pass it without having held a single hearing on it, without a score from the Congressional Budget Office that would tell us exactly what the effects would be, and before nearly anyone has had a chance to even look at the bill’s actual text — all this despite the fact that they are remaking one-sixth of the American economy and affecting all of our lives (and despite their long and ridiculous claims that the Affordable Care Act was “rammed through” Congress, when in fact it was debated for an entire year and was the subject of dozens of hearings and endless public discussion). We might talk about how every major stakeholder group — the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, the AARP, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Heart Association, and on and on — all oppose the bill.
All that matters. But the real problem is what’s in the bill itself. Here are some of the things it does:
- Takes health insurance away from at least 24 million Americans; that was the number the CBO estimated for a previous version of the bill, and the number for this one is probably higher.
- Revokes the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid, which provided no-cost health coverage to millions of low-income Americans.
- Turns Medicaid into a block grant, enabling states to kick otherwise-eligible people off their coverage and cut benefits if they so choose.
- Slashes Medicaid overall by $880 billion over 10 years.
- Removes the subsidies that the ACA provided to help middle-income people afford health insurance, replacing them with far more meager tax credits pegged not to people’s income but to their age. Poorer people would get less than they do now, while richer people would get more; even Bill Gates would get a tax credit.
- Allows insurers to charge dramatically higher premiums to older patients.
- Allows insurers to impose yearly and lifetime caps on coverage, which were outlawed by the ACA. This also, it was revealed today, may threaten the coverage of the majority of non-elderly Americans who get insurance through their employers.
- Allows states to seek waivers from the ACA’s requirement that insurance plans include essential benefits for things such as emergency services, hospitalization, mental health care, preventive care, maternity care, and substance abuse treatment.
- Provides hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts for families making over $250,000 a year.
- Produces higher deductibles for patients.
- Allows states to try to waive the ACA’s requirement that insurers must charge people the same rates regardless of their medical history. This effectively eviscerates the ban on denials for preexisting conditions, since insurers could charge you exorbitant premiums if you have a preexisting condition, effectively denying you coverage.
- Shunts those with preexisting conditions into high-risk pools, which are absolutely the worst way to cover those patients; experience with them on the state level proves that they wind up underfunded, charge enormous premiums, provide inadequate benefits and can’t cover the population they’re meant for. Multiple analyses have shown that the money the bill provides for high-risk pools is laughably inadequate, which will inevitably leave huge numbers of the most vulnerable Americans without the ability to get insurance.
- Brings back medical underwriting, meaning that just like in the bad old days, when you apply for insurance you’ll have to document every condition or ailment you’ve ever had.
It is no exaggeration to say that if it were to become law, this bill would kill significant numbers of Americans.