Head Smacker: GOP health care plan would make the poor sicker so they can make the rich wealthier


March 8, 2017

“This bill sends a loud and clear message: tax cuts for special interests and the wealthy matter more than your health care.”

This is how Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) described House Republicans’ legislation, unveiled on March 6, to repeal the Affordable Care Act and dismantle Medicaid. There’s so much head-smacking material in their versions of the health care plan that it’s hard to know where to begin, but let’s start with the fact that low- and middle-income people stand to lose a lot, while the rich stand to gain enormously.

As we noted in our statement released earlier today, “The House legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act would carry out a stunning attack on health care for low- and moderate-income people, ending coverage for millions of Americans. The legislation would phase out Medicaid coverage for people slightly over the poverty line and dismantle the core Medicaid program. People with modest incomes now getting health coverage through the exchanges would see their costs soaring unaffordably. Standards of care would be eroded. Children, seniors, working families, people with disabilities would all be hurt by the restrictions in the legislation. Who is helped? The richest Americans. Their gains are breathtaking: $300 billion in tax cuts estimated over the next ten years. According to the Tax Policy Center, the wealthiest one-tenth of one percent of earners would gain on average more than $195,000 each. Drug and medical device companies gain; so do health insurance firms.”

That’s right – the GOP legislation would cut taxes on the wealthy by hundreds of billions of dollars, taxes that are being used to finance the ACA, while gutting coverage for low-income people. Politico outlined the specifics of the tax cuts.

But there’s more. In order to give the rich more money, the GOP legislation would provide low-income people with tax credits often worth thousands of dollars less per person than the ACA’s subsidies. This means millions would be priced out of the market or be forced to settle for inadequate coverage. The legislation also provides for health savings accounts that are a great tax break for upper income people, but won’t help people with less income who can’t afford to sock money away for times of need.

In addition, the legislation would fundamentally dismantle Medicaid, which touches almost 1 in 5 Americans. We’ve previously written about some of the threats to Medicaid here and here – how the GOP plan calls for eliminating the federal commitment to match what states spend and instead instituting “per capita caps” that would limit the amount of money available to states to serve its residents on Medicaid. The 11 million low-income Americans who were able to get health insurance through the Medicaid expansion would eventually lose that coverage if states are unable to assume large cost increases. The program would be left unable to respond to future needs. The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Families USA all have pieces showing how these block grants and per capita caps would lead to damaging cuts and hurt low-income people.

These are just a few of the many reasons why we’re asking you to tell your members of Congress to reject this unconscionable attack on health care for low- and middle-income people – the very people President Trump claimed to be fighting for during his campaign. Two committees in the House – the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Ways and Means Committee – could take up the legislation as early as Wednesday, March 8th, and the bill could be voted on by the full House next week. It’s imperative that you let your elected officials know that you don’t support this attack on the health care that has saved lives and helped the most vulnerable. Email or call your representative today!

As Ron Pollack of Families USA said, “The GOP health care proposal would be laughable if its consequences weren’t so devastating.” We couldn’t agree more.

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