Exactly one year ago, Republican lawmakers gathered with Trump in the Rose Garden to celebrate their repeal of the Affordable Care Act. According to the Associated Press, Democrats are seeking to use that vote against Republicans in their effort to retake control of the House of Representatives. Democrats plan on “hammering Republicans for voting to replace a popular statute with a bill Congress’ own budget experts said would have driven up premiums and the ranks of the uninsured.”
Nationwide, more than 23 million people would have lost health insurance, including more than 2.5 million Californians. In California alone, more than 24,000 veterans would lose health care. Premiums would have increased for those who still had insurance, and especially for the elderly.
Republicans voted to “impose an unfair and unacceptable ‘age tax,'” according to AARP. The bill would have allowed “insurance companies to charge people between the ages of 50 and 64 (those too young for Medicare) five times what they can charge younger consumers.” One estimate showed older Californians could have paid up to $7,200 more per year for health insurance.
Further, health insurance premiums would be significantly higher for individuals with pre-existing conditions, and devastating for those fighting substance abuse addictions. One study shows provisions in the Republican bill could cost opioid patients trying to overcome their addiction an additional $14,000 in out-of-pocket costs for a treatment facility. As one former Surgeon General said, “This means that even if people with substance use disorders have insurance coverage, they could face thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs for treatment, putting it out of reach for many.”
The bill removed the guarantee of essential health benefits like maternity care and newborn care, and called for cutting patients off from care at Planned Parenthood, a position overwhelming opposed by not just women but all Americans.
While the bill failed in the Senate, Republicans nonetheless tucked many provisions into the unpopular tax bill. Those changes, combined with policy changes from the Trump administration, are causing millions of people to lose health care coverage and threaten dramatic increases in health care premiums.
Since 2016, an estimated four million people have lost health insurance, caused primarily by Republican policy changes. On top of people losing insurance, health care premiums are set to increase dramatically. Covered California estimates rates will increase by up to 30 percent in California next year. As SoCal Daily previously reported:
Middle-class families will be paying more, as the increases are expected to hit around six million Californians who purchase health insurance without federal subsidies. Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee told the L.A. Times, “The working middle class that are not getting subsidies got hit hardest in 2018 and would be hit hardest in 2019.”
Before Republicans made any changes, the insurance market was largely stable. Experts at Covered California said, “Going into 2017, the individual insurance markets were largely stabilizing in terms of enrollment and issuer profitability.” Yet Republicans make changes anyway, and now Californians are paying the price.
With higher premiums and the rate of uninsured Americans growing, voters are increasingly anxious about health care. A recent poll shows Americans are increasingly anxious about health care costs, with more than 2 in 3 Americans “very worried” or “somewhat worried” that rate hikes will make coverage unaffordable.
“When asked to say in their own words what health care issue they most want to hear the candidates talk about during their upcoming campaigns, one-fifth (22 percent) of registered voters mention health care costs,” reports Kaiser.
“The constant anxiety Americans now face is yet another hidden cost of Republicans’ relentless repeal-and-sabotage campaign against our health care,” says Brad Woodhouse, campaign director of Protect Our Care. Even some Republicans admit defending the vote will be an uphill struggle.
According to the AP, “Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent, among only 20 Republicans who voted against the House repeal bill, said GOP candidates will be vulnerable because of the bill’s impact and because President Donald Trump privately labeled the GOP measure ‘mean’ a month after it passed.”
Yet through all the attempts, the Affordable Care Act is still the law of the land. While Republicans may have damaged the law, they failed in their efforts to repeal it. And for some Americans, the issue is more than politics; it is life and death.
“The ACA absolutely saved my life,” said Karen Schoenfeld of Huntington Beach. “Without it, I would have been dead.”