Back in May, the House narrowly passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA). At the time, it was widely derided as a frankly despicable attempt to take healthcare provisions away from the poorest members of society and give an offensively large tax cut to the rich. Medical professionals, scientists, academics, insurers, and three-quarters of the public rallied against the bill.
As soon as it reached the Senate, the GOP majority there said they would scrap it and come up with a bill of their own. It almost didn’t matter what was in the AHCA; its passage was designed to allow the Senate to conjure up a more “refined” version. Even President Trump – who is single-mindedly obsessed with repealing Obamacare – said that the new bill should be less “mean” than the AHCA.
Now, a draft of the so-called Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) is out, and it’s safe to say that it’s as spiteful as everyone had feared. Leaving the political to-and-fro out of it, let’s look at what it means for America’s healthcare system:
- It defunds Planned Parenthood for an entire year, which means that millions of low-income Americans will lose access to sexual healthcare and contraceptives. This essentially means that unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infection rates will go up.
- The elderly will be paying up to five times more for health insurance than younger, healthier people.
- The top 1 percent of society will find their Obamacare taxes, those designed to fund care for the poor, repealed.
- Medicaid – the program designed to help poor Americans get healthcare – will stop being expanded by 2021, meaning millions of them will not be able to access treatment. In fact, the cuts to Medicaid are even worse than in the AHCA. The House bill called for $880 billion of cuts; the Senate version’s are reported to be even greater.
- Mental healthcare will not need to be covered by Medicaid after 2019.
- States will be allowed to seek waivers from certain Obamacare requirements. As pointed out by Vox, these include the essential health benefits package – something which requires healthcare providers to cover maternity care, mental health treatment, and prescription drugs.
As pointed out by several outlets, if the Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA) – better known as Obamacare – was an attempt to ensure that the wealthy pay more for healthcare and the poor pay far less, the AHCA was an attempt to reverse that, and then some.
The passage of the BCRA will guarantee that will take place, and people will die because of it. Remarkably, some of the GOP are already arguing the bill does not go far enough and are planning to oppose it in its current form.
The changes to Medicaid are particularly galling. One-in-five Americans rely on it to stay alive. It covers half of all births, 64 percent of all nursing home residents, 30 percent of adults will disabilities, 60 percent of children with disabilities, and 76 percent of all poor children. These people will all suffer if this bill passes.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) hasn’t had time to properly assess this bill yet, but it’s likely that plenty of the measures in the AHCA will be carried over. This means that yet again, 23-24 million more people would be uninsured by the mid-2020s. It also means that things like “being pregnant” and “being a victim of domestic violence” become pre-existing conditions that companies could use to discriminate against.
Drafted in secret and without consultation – unlike the ACA – the BCRA is already being hammered by medical professionals. The Association of American Medical Colleges released a statement in which they called it “extremely disappointing”.
“Despite promises to the contrary, it will leave millions of people without health coverage, and others with only bare bones plans that will be insufficient to properly address their needs.
“Rather than stabilizing the health care marketplace, this legislation will upend it by crippling the Medicaid program while also placing untenable strain on states and providers.”
Former President Obama has himself weighed in on the bill in a lengthy Facebook post, which can be read in full here.
“The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill,” Obama notes. “It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America. It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else.”
If the BCRA passes, America will be made sicker – there’s no question about it. Many of America’s incredible advances in medical research will be for naught if a massive swath of the public won’t ever be able to afford the treatments they lead to.