Healthcare Bill

TimeWatch Editorial
May 05, 2017

Yesterday the Republican Congress managed to pass the replacement Health Care Bill they have been seeking to put in place for the last number of years.  The vote was 217, one more than was needed to get by.  There was quite a celebration at the White House following the event, and I am sure that there will be much debate that will follow.  Given the importance of this matter, we thought to give a brief introductory look at some of the things that will be affected by this vote and as the days roll by, we will take a more expansive look at the intricate details.

First, according to the Affordable Care Act put in place during the Obama years, there was a tax penalty enforced on those who did not enroll in the program. The reason for this was that in order for the cost of insurance to be kept low, everyone must buy in to the program. This tax was strongly objected to by the majority of Republican and so in the new plan, there is no tax penalty. However there is a 30% surcharge for those who allow their coverage to lapse for more than 63 days in the year.

Second –“Cuts the Medicaid program for low-income people and lets states impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients; Forbids states that haven't already expanded Medicaid to do so. Changes Medicaid from an open-ended program that covers beneficiaries' costs to one that gives states fixed amounts of money annually.” Republican health care bill: What's in it? FoxNews, May 4, 2017

It will be interesting to see the reaction to individuals who are now on Medicaid. But the program goes even further with regard to older customers.

“It Lets states get federal waivers allowing insurers to charge older customers higher premiums than younger ones by as much as they'd like. Obama's law limits the difference to a 3-1 ratio. States also can get waivers exempting insurers from providing consumers with required coverage of specified health services, and from Obama's prohibition against insurers charging higher premiums to people with pre-existing health problems, but only if the person has had a gap in insurance coverage.” Republican health care bill: What's in it? FoxNews, May 4, 2017

So the question many people have been asking, but have not really gotten a conclusive answer is this; how will the new bill affect the number of individuals who are now covered by the Affordable Care act? The answer,

“According to an estimate of the bill's original version by the Congressional Budget Office, 24 million more people would be uninsured by 2026. The Congressional Budget Office has not updated that forecast since House Republicans tinkered with aspects of the legislation to secure enough GOP votes for it to narrowly pass.”By Juliet Eilperin and Amy Goldstein, “Questions and Answers on Pre-existing Conditions,” May 4, 2017, the Washington Post

You might be curious as to whether things will change regarding people with pre-existing conditions. Well the Washington Post response to that is:

“Under the ACA, insurers are prohibited from denying coverage to individuals based on preexisting medical conditions, such as cancer, depression or asthma. And the ACA requires insurers to offer “community rating,” meaning they cannot charge those with costly medical conditions more than they charge other consumers in the general insurance pool. But an amendment written last week by Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) would allow states to obtain a waiver from the Health and Human Services Department so they could charge customers with preexisting conditions more than other people. If HHS did not respond to a state’s waiver request within 60 days, the requested change would automatically go into effect. Health experts predict that the result would be a sharp rise in premium increases for those with medical problems.” By Juliet Eilperin and Amy Goldstein , “Questions and Answers on Pre-existing Conditions,” May 4, 2017, the Washington Post

This is a very brief look at a few of the issues affected by the bill passed by the House of Congress May 4, 2017. There is much more that needs a close examination, and we will certainly pursue that in the near future. On item is worthy of repetition.  With regard to its impact on Medicaid,

“Republicans' bill would cut $880 billion from the Medicaid program over the next decade, according to the most recent CBO estimate. This program provides health coverage for low-income Americans and helps pay for long-term care for people with disabilities and seniors. Under the ACA, 11 million people have gained coverage through the ACA's Medicaid expansion. For the next few years, the 31 states that chose to broaden their programs could keep going with that, but new people eligible under the expansion could not enroll. Then, starting in 2020, Medicaid would switch nationwide to a very different method of federal payments, breaking with its history of paying a certain proportion for everyone enrolled and moving to a system in which each state would be given a certain amount per person — a change that critics predict would starve the program as time goes by as well as affect beneficiaries' access to care.” By Juliet Eilperin and Amy Goldstein , “Questions and Answers on Pre-existing Conditions,” May 4, 2017, the Washington Post

Regardless of your age, or health a careful look should be taken at this new bill. Next it will go to the Senate. Hopefully some corrections will be made.

Cameron A. Bowen

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