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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Columns

GOP health care plan is a step backwards


Earlier this month, House republicans introduced a bill to repeal and replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The new bill is entitled the American Health Care Act (AHCA).

This new plan, although similar in some ways to the ACA, is still very different — and not in a good way.

The AHCA still requires insurers to cover pre-existing conditions. This was a good component of the ACA, and its continuation increases access to health care for some of the most disadvantaged people. However, the AHCA does not include the mandate to purchase health care.

The ACA included a tax penalty for people who did not have coverage during the year. The new GOP health care plan removes this and replaces it with a different type of penalty. Now, people who don’t have insurance for more than two months will have to pay a 30% premium surcharge if they try to buy a plan.

The 30% surcharge doesn’t go to the federal government, the insurers keep the money. If the surcharge were paid to the federal government, there would be a positive budgetary effect because that money would increase federal funds.

The penalty change will make a huge impact on access to health care. Under the ACA, there is currently a penalty for not having insurance; with the AHCA there is simply a threat for future penalties.

The ACA penalty will keep more insured because the consequences are more immediate. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office — a nonpartisan agency that provides budget analysis for proposed bills — found that “in 2018, the number of uninsured would be 14 million larger under the Republican bill than under Obamacare. In 2026, it would be 24 million more.”

Without the tax, premiums will go up as fewer healthy people purchase insurance.

The AHCA has passed through two House committees as well as the CBO. The CBO’s analysis of the AHCA indicates that there will be a decrease in the deficit, but a modest shift at best.

Any health care plan should be judged on access, cost and quality. So far, the new GOP plan may be cost-efficient, but at the expense of eliminating access for the people who actually need health care. The AHCA changes subsidies and reduces Medicaid.

The new act would be disadvantageous to the elderly, to low income people and people who live in high premium areas. The AHCA ties subsidies to a person’s age instead of their income, which means that low-income individuals will not get the assistance they need.

The ACHA will also give each state a fixed amount of money for Medicaid instead of receiving federal assistance based on medical care given.

As of now, it seems uncertain as to whether or not the AHCA will make it through the House. There are many Republicans and Democrats who think this bill is not what should replace the ACA.

Paul Ryan is pushing hard to get the AHCA passed because the timing is right, instead of focusing on actually making the bill better. By no means is the ACA perfect; it does have flaws.

However, if the new GOP health care plan is adopted, it would be a step backwards, not a step toward improving health care in America.  

Fariha Jawed is an accounting and political science junior and can be reached at [email protected]

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