At the end of March, Republicans pulled their repeal of the Affordable Care Act from the floor for lack of votes. Many thought the bill to be dead, and many of us—those of us who are fighting for a health care system that helps working Americans—celebrated a victory. We’d saved the ACA. From here, we could move forward towards universal health care.
Just this week, however, reports have surfaced that the Republican health care bill is far from dead. Rather, Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) has been brokering a deal with Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.), leader of the Tuesday Group (a caucus of about fifty moderate House Republicans) to revive the bill, and attempt to push the reform through the House before the end of Trump’s first 100 days.
The bill pretends to be “moderate,” by leaving the ACA’s Essential Health Benefits measures in place. In reality, it includes provisions which would allow states to “opt out” of this requirement if they can “prove” that removing the Essential Health Benefits mandate will make insurance “cheaper” for state residents. This loop hole will allow insurance companies in states like North Carolina to stop covering Essential Health Benefits like emergency room visits, prescription drugs, preventive care, maternity and newborn care, and more.
Further, the bill will remove the community ratings provision of the ACA, which prevents insurance companies from charging higher premiums for preexisting conditions. While conservatives like Meadows claim that people with preexisting conditions will still be able to obtain coverage from so called “high risk pools,” the reality is that high risk pools existed before the ACA and were a disaster. They were underfunded, and frequently provided people with inadequate and extremely expensive care. Many went without insurance because they couldn’t afford these policies.
A study published by the Center for American Progress shows just how much premiums may soar for people with pre-existing conditions under this new bill. Someone with asthma could expect an annual premium surcharge of $4,340, or an extra $360 per month. Meanwhile, someone with a history of metastatic cancer would see their premiums go up by as much as $142,650 per year. That’s nearly $12,000 per month.
The agenda of the Freedom Caucus, and of Mark Meadows, is clear: they’d rather craft a bill that gives billions in tax breaks to the top 1%, while leaving working class Americans without affordable health care.
It’s time we put an end to this discussion. We don’t need regressive, pre-ACA health care policy. What we need is to join every other major country in the world in affirming health care as a right of all its citizens.
It’s time for Medicare for All.