As we’re sure you’ve heard, the US House of Representatives’ second version of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) – the Republican replacement for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as Obamacare – was passed by just four votes last night. Should this bill make it to the point wherein it’s the law of the land, there will be huge economic and political ramifications – but, most importantly, it will have a huge effect on the health of tens of millions of American citizens.
Academics, medical professionals, scientific researchers, hospitals, nurses, doctors, and even insurers have come out in a strong display of unity against the bill, as have the Democratic Party and a 3-1 majority of the American public. One editorial called it an “abomination,” adding “if there has been a piece of legislation in our lifetimes that boiled over with as much malice and indifference to human suffering, I can’t recall what it might have been.”
So what’s in this bill, and is it really as draconian and spiteful as the outcry seems to suggest? Let’s take a look.
A Redistribution of Wealth
The AHCA was shot down by the House a few weeks back after various moderates and conservative GOP lawmakers were unhappy with the content of the bill – it was either not extreme enough, or too extreme.
Now, with amendments to paradoxically make both sides happy, it barely squeezed through, but it was rushed through the House so quickly that it wasn’t even properly costed, and many GOP voters that opted to support the bill admitted they haven’t actually read it. It will soon be presented to the Senate, whose Republicans members have already said that they will scrap the AHCA and write their own version of it – so who knows what will make it into the final copy and what won’t.
Medical experts have been taking a close look at the AHCA in its current form, and there’s already a consensus that it will have dire consequences.
“We are deeply concerned that the AHCA would result in millions of Americans losing their current health insurance coverage,” a letter from the American Medical Association, addressed to Paul Ryan, reads.
“Although the MacArthur Amendment [a late-stage addition to the AHCA] states that the ban on preexisting conditions remains intact, this assurance may be illusory,” it adds. “Health status underwriting could effectively make coverage completely unaffordable to people with preexisting conditions.”
Here are some of the headlines from various analyses:
- It will cut $880 billion from Medicaid, a social health program designed to support those on low incomes. This means that by 2020, 8 million people relying on it for mental health treatments, and 10.4 million counting on it to help with their substance abuse problems, will lose coverage.
- At the same time, ACA-era tax increases on the wealthiest Americans would be erased, which would amount to an $883 billion tax cut.
- 24 million more people would be uninsured by 2026.
- Those who are healthy and are earning high wages will benefit from this bill, but older people in poor health will see their premiums rise considerably.
- Despite what the GOP leadership have said, the extremely popular ACA provision – that people with pre-existing conditions will not lose their health insurance – simply isn’t true, and millions will lose out as a result of this bill becoming law.