When the CBO health care report was released on Monday, the estimates therein were largely seen as disastrous for Paul Ryan’s American Health Care Act (AHCA). According to the CBO, under the AHCA, an estimated 14 million people would lose insurance by the end of the year, and 24 million by the end of the decade, average premiums would increase until 2020 before decreasing, and, due to Planned Parenthood being defunded, access to women’s heath care would plummet by about 15% “in areas without other health care clinics or medical practitioners who serve low-income populations.”
Furthermore, as the table below shows, if you’re a low-income earner, your health insurance coverage is likely to rise by 2026—in some cases, exponentially. Take the example of the 64-year-old (below) earning $26,500 annually (175% above poverty line). The CBO estimates their coverage would increase from $1,700 per year to $14,600 per year. That’s a 750% increase. There is no conceivable way someone making $26k per year could afford $14,600 for health insurance. Now when an individual earns $68,200 (450% above poverty line) premiums drop rather significantly for a 21-year-old and a 40-year-old, while decreasing moderately for the 64-year-old.
Paul Ryan should just be honest, he doesn’t care about poor people, and this was never about health insurance.
24 million people losing their health insurance and low-income earners and older Americans being priced out of the marketplace may seem like terrible things, but we have to look at this through Paul Ryan’s eyes. He said the CBO report “exceeded [his] expectations.” How, you may be asking yourself, could these catastrophic decreases in overall coverage exceed anyone’s (sans an outright masochist’s) expectations? These results exceeded his expectations because Paul Ryan does not care how many people are insured, he cares about limiting the role of government; he cares about tax cuts and the free market; he’s a trickle-down enthusiast with a narrow focus. This was never about insuring more people or fixing issues with Obamacare, it was about pushing his free-market, tax breaks for the wealthy, forget the poor agenda.
In 2011, Ryan released his now rather infamous “Path to Prosperity” budget. The budget contains a full repeal of the Dodd-Frank financial-regulation law, enormous tax cuts for the wealthy and, conversely, enormous cuts to social programs that benefit low-income Americans. Robert Greenstein, the President of the non-partisan (but in reality, typically left-leaning) Center on Budget and Policy Priorities stated that the Ryan budget “proposes a dramatic reverse-Robin-Hood approach that gets the lion’s share of its budget cuts from programs for low-income Americans.” It was far from the first time Ryan was labeled a reverse-Robin Hood, and it surely won’t be the last.
In 2014, Ryan put out a 73-page brief entitled “Expanding Opportunity in America.” The plan outlines a reallocation of federal funding and a more hands-on approach to social programs in general. It calls for a shifting of funds to the state level and the implementation of “opportunity plan[s]” designed by local caseworkers. Of course, as TalkPoverty.org noted, Ryan’s report touches on broad issues while entirely ignoring the fact that his massive proposed budget cuts would go a long way in dismantling social programs, not reforming them.
On Meet the Press in 2014, Ryan said “We don’t want a dependency culture. Our concern in this country is with the idea that more and more able-bodied people are becoming dependent upon the government than upon themselves and their livelihoods.” While Ryan’s concern may be valid in certain regards, and he frames his approach as if it derives from a place of compassion and empathy, the reality is he’s denouncing these programs as a way to justify cutting them. The more he gets the public to believe social programs are wasteful disasters that quell growth, the less heartless it will seem when he squashes them into oblivion.
Paul Ryan hasn’t changed since unveiling the “Path to Prosperity,” he’s simply become a more skilled politician. He now realizes he can slide his prime objectives into any platform he chooses simply by altering the language. He says the Affordable Care Act is in a “death spiral” and the AHCA will stabilize the market. The CBO disagrees, stating “the nongroup market would probably be stable in most areas under either current law or the legislation.”
This AHCA isn’t about health insurance, it’s about tax cuts, ending social programs and partisanship. It’s not about helping all Americans, it’s about helping some Americans—mainly those who are already doing quite well.
Donald Trump said he wants “insurance for everybody.”
This is not, in any way, shape, form, format, formality or fantasy, insurance for everybody.
And there’s no way to spin the fact that if this bill passes, thousands more Americans will die each year, and most of them will be poor, elderly, or both.
by Jesse Mechanic
Jesse Mechanic is the editor in chief of The Overgrown.