At stake is health care access for millions, including people with pre-existing conditions. Surely these would be at the top of any list of concerns about Cassidy-Graham.
Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa has made the point himself: The Cassidy-Graham bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has many deficiencies.
“I could maybe give you 10 reasons why this bill should not be considered,” he told Iowa reporters.
So, let’s look at some of the reasons, on the merits, why people might have concerns about Cassidy-Graham.
- People with pre-existing conditions would lose access to health care. Protection of these people assured now under the ACA would be left to state decisions, with states already cash-strapped.
- Many who became eligible for coverage through the Medicaid expansion of the ACA would lose it. In Iowa, about 150,000 people gained coverage by this expansion.
- It would change Medicaid expansion to a block-grant program that provides states no flexibility to deal with recessions or prescription drug price increases.
- Medicaid for seniors, people with disabilities, and families with children would be capped on a per-person basis. Anything higher would be left to the states to provide. There is neither any assurance states would want to do that, or even be financially able to do so.
- Iowa would be marched to a $1.8 billion cliff in 2027 under this bill, with federal support dropping sharply. For context, that is the equivalent of about one-fourth of the current state budget.
- Millions would lose insurance coverage. While we’re still waiting for the estimate from the Congressional Budget Office, past repeal proposals show this. And, since this bill offers nothing beyond 2027 for the Medicaid expansion, via block grant or otherwise, the prospect of 32 million people losing coverage (as demonstrated in estimates in previous ACA repeal legislation) is very real.
In Iowa? The graph below shows how Iowa’s uninsured population has dropped with the advent of the ACA, or Obamacare. Census data show uninsurance in Iowa dropped by nearly half in just three years, by about 116,000 — from 8.1 percent uninsured in 2013 to 4.3 percent in 2016.
So, this is a good start on why Iowans might be concerned about Cassidy-Graham — a last-ditch effort to rush into law radical changes in the way millions nationally and over 100,000 in Iowa gained access to health care in just three years.
We invite Senator Grassley to add to the list and get us to the full 10 reasons he suggested that might cause concerns about this bill.
Or better yet, maybe together in a deliberative process that involves everyone, we can come up with a list of 10 things that any health care policy should address.
Surely the list would include insuring more people, assuring more with practical access to health care when they need it, improving public health and reducing costs. We invite Senator Grassley to that discussion.
Mike Owen, Executive Director of the Iowa Policy Project
The bottom line: worse health care coverage at higher cost to millions, loss of coverage entirely to millions more, in order to finance tax cuts for corporations.
The House Republican plan to replace Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) with the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which a few weeks ago failed to even come to a vote, has been reincarnated. The new version of the AHCA has apparently won the support of the Freedom Caucus in the House, but in so doing has become significantly worse for millions of Americans.
Here are the key points about this new attempt to “repeal and replace” Obamacare:
- Despite repeated promises to keep the most popular part of Obamacare, the provision prohibiting insurance companies from refusing to cover those with pre-existing conditions, the new version returns us to the bad old days. While a particular state may choose to keep the prohibition, there is no longer any nationwide requirement that insurance companies issue affordable policies regardless of pre-existing conditions.
- Nationwide standards for health insurance policies will be rolled back; plans will no longer be required to cover services such as mental health, maternity care, or substance abuse treatment.
- The nationwide prohibition on lifetime and annual limits on benefits will be gone, meaning the possibility of medical bankruptcy will loom once again for many.
- The modified version of the bill still effectively ends the Medicaid expansion; about 150,000 Iowans now covered under that provision could lose insurance altogether.
- The bill still cuts $840 billion from Medicaid over 10 years, most of the savings going to wealthy individuals, drug companies, insurance companies, and other corporations.
- Premiums and deductibles will still rise for large numbers of persons buying insurance on the exchanges, especially for the elderly, those with lower incomes, and those in high-cost states or areas, such as most of rural Iowa.
- Under the bill, there would be no limit on the premium an insurance company can charge based on medical history; thus someone with pre-existing conditions could in theory be offered coverage, but at a cost that is simply unaffordable. There is little difference between this situation and straight denial of coverage. A state could choose to prohibit this practice (i.e., to keep the Obamacare provision in place), but few states chose to do so before Obamacare.
While the proponents of this revised plan may argue that it keeps the prohibition on gender discrimination, a woman would pay substantially more for a plan that included maternity coverage. Such coverage would not be a required part of all plans, but instead would be an expensive option.
Just how this revised bill would affect overall coverage rates, premiums, and out-of-pocket costs, awaits a new analysis by the Congressional Budget Office. But it is quite possible that the bill will be voted on in the house without the benefit of that analysis. Part of the pressure to pass the bill now comes from the desire on the part of the Trump administration to come up with large savings to the federal government that can then be used to finance cuts to corporate and individual income taxes.
The bottom line: worse health care coverage at higher cost to millions, loss of coverage entirely to millions more, in order to finance tax cuts for corporations (and probably millionaires as well).
Posted by Peter Fisher, research director of the nonpartisan Iowa Policy Project. firstname.lastname@example.org
Also see Fisher’s March 2017 policy brief for the Iowa Fiscal Partnership: “Replacing ACA: What you need to know about the AHCA.”