CHN: House GOP Releases the Rest of its Agenda, including its Health Care Alternative

Following the June 7 release of talking points on fighting poverty, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and the House Republican Task Forces he assembled continued to unveil additional pieces of the GOP agenda this month, including policy pieces on national security, the economy, the Constitution, health care, and tax reform.

Similar to the poverty plan, many of the other pieces lack a number of specifics while containing policies that would harm low-income people – policies have been proposed by right-wing members of Congress for years. The paper on the economy, for example, consists mainly of anti-regulatory proposals; it rails against the updated overtime regulations recently released by the Department of Labor and calls for gutting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by making its funding part of the appropriations process, eliminating the bureau’s director, and prohibiting the CFPB from implementing some of its proposed rules, such as those restricting payday and auto title loans so that they do not target borrowers who cannot possibly pay interest rates that commonly exceed 300 percent. The paper on the Constitution talks about limiting agencies’ authority, reforming rulemaking and conducting oversight of the executive branch. The paper on national security calls for prioritizing investments in our nuclear deterrent while also calling for cracking down on undocumented immigrants, referred to in the paper as aliens (House Republicans also recently passed legislation requiring the Library of Congress to use the term ‘alien’ to refer to undocumented immigrants).

On June 22, the House GOP released its paper on health care. Advocates were not surprised that it calls for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, including repealing the mandate for individuals to secure coverage and employers to provide it. The plan also cuts subsidies that low-income Americans can currently use to buy coverage (though doesn’t specify by how much), allows insurers to place arbitrary caps on how much they will pay out when people need significant care, eliminates national coverage standards for health plans, and promotes high-deductible plans that could leave Americans in a big hole in the case of major injury or illness.

House Speaker Ryan’s plan would also make big changes to Medicaid and Medicare. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the plan would not only bar additional states from taking the Medicaid expansion option in the ACA, it would sharply cut federal funding for states that have already expanded Medicaid to low-income Americans, likely driving many states to drop this option in the future. The plan would force states to accept Medicaid funds as either a block grant or a program with rigid caps on federal funding provided per beneficiary (known as “per capita caps”). Either way, significant costs would be shifted to the states, forcing them to either significantly raise the amount they spend on Medicaid or, more likely, cut benefits, eligibility, and provider payments. The plan also calls for raising the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 67 over time and replacing Medicare’s guarantee of coverage with a voucher that beneficiaries could use to buy private health insurance or traditional Medicare. Advocates fear that the amount of the voucher won’t keep pace with health care costs over time, effectively shifting additional costs to seniors.

The Washington Post said the GOP alternative health care plan “comes with uncertain costs and unknown impact of the number of insured Americans.” Referring to the “A Better Way” title given to all of the plans released this month, Families USA said, “Jeopardizing the health coverage of over 20 million people who recently secured it is not a better way. Cutting state Medicaid funding that places 72 million of our most vulnerable men, women and children at risk of losing coverage is not a better way.”

According to Americans for Tax Fairness, Ryan’s tax plan released on June 24 would slash income tax rates for corporations and the wealthy without additional revenue to offset these cuts. It would also repeal the estate tax. According to a statement from House Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI), the plan would directly hurt low-income families by eliminating the refundable portion of the Child Tax Credit for taxpayers without a Social Security number. It also leaves out an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit for childless workers and non-custodial parents, a bipartisan proposal Ryan has supported in the past. The plan purports to be revenue neutral by using a tactic known as “dynamic scoring,” a highly uncertain and controversial way of estimating the impact of the proposed tax cuts by assuming they would cause enough economic growth to result in some revenue increases.

For information on the Ryan/House GOP poverty plan that was released on June 7, see the June 13 Human Needs Report, CHN’s statement and blog post about the plan, and compiled statements and analyses of the plan from affiliates on a new resource page.

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