House Votes to Take Away Health Coverage from Millions

May 04, 2017

This statement from the Center on Law and Social Policy (CLASP) can be attributed to Olivia Golden, CLASP’s executive director.

Washington, DC, May 4, 2017—Today, the U.S. House Republicans passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA) by a 217-213 vote, taking a major step toward undoing the historic health care gains of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  This vote was rushed through just hours after the updated bill text was released, with no hearings, no analysis of the implications for the employer-provided health insurance market, and no score by the independent Congressional Budget Office of the number of people who would be left without health coverage.  The AHCA would dramatically increase the number of people who are uninsured, make coverage less comprehensive and more expensive, and slash hundreds of billions of dollars from the Medicaid program.  At the same time, the bill would provide billions in tax cuts to the wealthy.

In order to win over the most conservative faction of the party,  House Republican leadership agreed to significant changes that made a terrible bill even worse, by, for example, allowing states to waive the essential benefits package and allowing health plans to charge people with preexisting conditions more for health insurance.  The token addition of $8 billion to offset the impacts on premiums will not even make a dent in the nearly $1 trillion that the House bill cuts from programs that help people afford coverage, leaving behind as many as 15 million people with preexisting conditions.

This bill not only undoes the expansion of insurance under the ACA—which has led to record levels of health coverage for children, parents, and low-income working adults—but also ends Medicaid as we know it, a program that has provided affordable health care to low-income children, parentsyoung adults, seniors and individuals with disabilities since 1965.  Medicaid is a critical work support for helping people find and keep a job.  It is also the largest source of financial support for opioid treatment and other key mental health and substance abuse services. By replacing the guarantee of federal participation in the cost of providing comprehensive insurance to all eligible individuals with "per capita caps" and optional block grants, the bill would leave state budgets in the red by billions of dollars, forcing cuts to eligibility, benefits, or provider reimbursement rates. States would be forced to trade groups off against each other, for example vulnerable children against seniors or individuals with disabilities. And the huge hit to state budgets would likely cause cuts far beyond health care—like K-12 or higher education—as states sought to fill an enormous hole in their federal revenues.

This bill is opposed by essentially every group representing patients, seniors, children, and individuals with disabilities, as well as all elements of the health care system—doctors, nurses, hospitals, clinics.  House Republicans should be working in a bipartisan manner to build on the ACA’s historic progress, rather than cutting closed-door deals to buy support and rushing votes while jeopardizing the health care of millions of Americans. This desperate search for a political win is dangerous and irresponsible policymaking when peoples’ lives are on the line.

CLASP urges the Senate, which is expected to consider health care legislation in the next few months, to reject this damaging proposal—and any other legislation that would harm Medicaid and leave millions of people across the country without access to affordable and comprehensive health care.

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The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) is a national, nonpartisan, anti-poverty organization advancing policy solutions that work for low-income people. With nearly 50 years of trusted expertise, a deeply knowledgeable staff, and a commitment to practical yet visionary approaches to opportunity for all, CLASP lifts up the voices of poor and low-income children, families, and individuals, equips advocates with strategies that work, and helps public officials put good ideas into practice. The organization’s solutions directly address the barriers that individuals and families face because of race, ethnicity, and immigration status, in addition to low income. For more information, visit www.clasp.org and follow @CLASP_DC. 

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