Repealing the ACA is Still a Bad Idea

By Suzanne Wikle

Following the latest collapse of the Senate proposal to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Senate leadership has revived the idea of simply repealing the ACA. The repeal would be effective in 2020, leaving two years for Congress to craft a replacement. However, Congressional Republicans are no closer to developing a viable ACA alternative than they were six months ago, and a repeal-only bill would destabilize the insurance markets and put health care at risk for millions.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the repeal bill would cause 32 million people to lose health insurance by 2026, which would mean more uninsured people than before the ACA. And the impact would be immediate, with 17 million people becoming uninsured in 2018—a mere five months away. The bill would end the ACA’s Medicaid expansion in 2020; in 32 states (including D.C.) this provision has covered 11 million low-income Americans who work hard but struggle to make ends meet

”Repeal and delay” is not a new idea, it’s just the latest grasp for a “win” by Senate leadership. Originally floated in January, it was quickly dismissed because of the harm it would cause to both individuals and the health insurance market. It should swiftly be rejected again for the same reasons.

The CBO has issued an updated assessment of last week’s Senate repeal and replace bill, which confirms that it would leave just as many people uninsured as the previous version. Senate Republicans have also released yet another version of their bill. The “sweeteners” in these bills designed to reach wavering Senators are far less than the deep holes in state health care budgets that would be left by the Medicaid cuts.  Instead of continuing to hunt for the needed votes to pass their disastrous and unpopular bills, Republican leaders should start over. Seventy-one percent of Americans favor a bipartisan effort to improve the ACA, and the support for repealing the ACA is at an all-time low.

Congress has some clear steps for truly improving our health care system. For starters, Congress can extend the popular and crucial Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides health insurance to eight million kids, before it expires on September 30. Beyond CHIP, Congress can make real improvements in increasing health insurance access and affordability by offering assistance to low-income workers who have trouble affording the cost of employer-sponsored insurance for families, which would fix the so-called “family glitch.” In addition, Congress could fulfill its promise to insurers to make cost-sharing reduction payments and also incentivize additional states to expand Medicaid. At the same time, they should continue to reject any proposals that would cut Medicaid or increase the total number of people without insurance in the United States.

The people have spoken loudly and frequently: they want affordable health care and they want to preserve Medicaid. It’s time that Congressional leaders listen.