Like Most Sequels, Obamacare Part II: The GOP Replacement, Isn’t Nearly as Good as the Original

We’ve been waiting, impatiently stirring—clamoring for any info we could get.  What would this nation-saving bill look like?  Would it be delivered in a horse-drawn carriage—a single book bound with gold and adorned with garish, ornamental flares signaling the rebirth of our republic?

Perhaps the bill itself would anthropomorphize into an all-knowing, all-seeing being of limitless power à la Dr.Manhattan.  The bill-being would grow as large as the planet itself, the universe even, and with a flick of its finger it would rid us of the Obamacare scourge and bring forth a new age.  An age where every American would be eligible for affordable health care.  The abuses of insurance companies and big pharma would be immediately halted, we would all hold hands and rejoice at our bright future.  A future punctuated by smile overdoses and endless parades of sunshine.  Oh, what a time it will be!

Or, they’ll put out a half-assed proposal that takes a bill with a lot of problems (the Affordable Care Act) and makes it far worse.

All hail the predictably-and-uncreatively-named: American Health Care Act (AHCA).

After years of death panel talk, and comparing Obamacare to Nazi train rides, the Slave Act of 1850, Nazis again and stating that it was “the most dangerous piece of legislation ever passed in Congress,” the GOP has unveiled their replacement plan.

It landed with a meaty, unenthusiastic thud on both sides of the aisle.

The bill, which republicans had six years to come up with, keeps some the most popular provisions of Obamacare (pre-existing conditions/ covered under parents until 26), but it will attempt to use tax credits and incentives to pay for the coverage instead of subsidies.  While subsidies and tax credits are really quite similar, the new bill lowers the amount of monetary help significantly across the board.

The individual mandate, one of the more contentious aspects of Obamacare which requires all Americans to sign up for health insurance, will be shifted and reformatted.  Under the American Health Care Act, the penalty for not having insurance will be paid to insurance companies in the form of a surcharge instead of to the federal government.  The GOP is trying to say they tossed the mandate aside, but there will be very sizeable 30% surcharge penalty enforced by insurance companies for anyone who goes without insurance for more than 63 days.  So while there is no penalty fee for not having insurance in general, there is a large fee if you attempt to reenter the market and obtain coverage.  Much like the aforementioned subsidies to tax credits change, this is essentially a rebranding.  It’s a rebranding that will put more money in insurance companies’ pockets.

That’s what most of this bill is, a brazen redistribution back to the top of fiscal food chain.

That’s what most of this bill is, a brazen redistribution back to the top of fiscal food chain. According to estimates courtesy of the Joint Committee on Taxation, the bill is a $600 billion dollar tax cut heavily favoring the wealthy and corporate entities.

It also freezes the Medicaid expansion in 2020.  This particular provision will severely impact low-income households across the country.  Of the estimated 20 million people who received coverage under the Affordable Care Act, 14.5 million were covered as a result of the Medicaid expansion.

Traveling along the same theme of negatively impacting the poor while bolstering the rich, the bill also defunds Planned Parenthood in a truly aggressive fashion. The federal government does not currently provide funding for abortions, so this defunding, as it were, concerns all women’s health services outside of abortions.  The bill not only takes away all federal funding for these services, which will immediately impact low-income earning women across the country but, as Vox noted, it also aims to dismantle private insurance coverage for abortions.  It will do this by refusing to issue federal tax credits for plans that cover abortion.  Combine these moves with the global gag rule reinstated last month and it’s fairly evident: if an organization has anything to do with abortion, even if it’s simply education, the current administration sees them as an enemy.

The bill is also quite harsh on older Americans.  As the New York Times reported, the AARP and other associated groups have come out strictly opposing this bill, claiming it will raise insurance costs for seniors by 20-25%+.   The AARP elaborated on their stance on their website stating,

“Before people even reach retirement age, big insurance companies could be allowed to charge them an age tax that adds up to thousands of dollars more per year. Older Americans need affordable health care services and prescriptions. This plan goes in the opposite direction, increasing insurance premiums for older Americans and not doing anything to lower drug costs.

On top of the hefty premium increase for consumers, big drug companies and other special interests get a sweetheart deal.”

Today, the American Medical Association (AMA) came out against the AHCA joining a growing cadre of public health organizations around the country including the American Hospital Association.

By all accounts, this bill will not fix Obamacare, but make it worse.  Those among us who really need the help, won’t receive as much assistance, and those who really don’t need it will receive a boost.

According to a report by the Kaiser Foundation, the bill would provide less monetary assistance to low-income earners while lowering costs for people who earn +400% above the poverty line.  The GOP’s tax credit structure is primarily based on age (Obamacare factors in cost-of-living and income), and the reason for this cuts right to a core, republican philosophy.  Many republicans believe that government assistance for low-earners fosters stagnancy and quells ambition.  Taking steps to remove income from the equation would, in their eyes, disincentivize the perceived appeal to stay at the bottom of the income ladder.

What it really does is make life even harder for the poorest Americans.

What it really does is make it that much more difficult to rise above your bracket.

The American Health Care Act is a generic, predictable, shitty sequel.

The original was certainly no Citizen Kane, but its replacement is the Grease 2 of health care bills.

Democrats who support fixing Obamacare rather than repealing it hate the bill because it will make insurance more expensive for lower income families and almost certainly insure less people overall. Many republicans dislike the bill because they claim it’s Obamacare lite. It keeps certain Obamacare taxes in place, it replaces the (at one point loathed) individual mandate penalty with an insurance surcharge, it keeps the essential health benefits provision, and it exchanges subsidies for tax credits. It does not open the market up. It doesn’t allow insurance to be sold across state lines, something the GOP and the president have been bringing up for months. Republican senator Mike Lee came out firmly against the bill stating it’s “exactly the type of back-room dealing and rushed process that we criticized Democrats for, and it is not what we promised the American people.”

He’s right. It took the democrats nearly a year and a half to pass the Affordable Care Act, and republicans attacked them for rushing it through. If that was rushing, what is this?

Trump said he wanted to roll out “insurance for everybody.” This is not that. This is not even in the same galaxy as that.

Oh, and they’re also repealing the 10% tax on indoor tanning commonly referred to as the “Snooki tax”. Because, why not?

 

by Jesse Mechanic

Jesse Mechanic is the editor in chief of The Overgrown.

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