What do you call a bill that provides hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts to the wealthy – by taking health care away from other Americans?
It should be called a tax cut bill for the rich, disguised as the “Better Care Reconciliation Act” (BCRA), which has nothing to do with providing care.
Although the bill was moribund last week, the Senate is poised to vote today on a Motion to Proceed to bring it to the floor.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that, if the bill becomes law, 22 million more people will be uninsured in 10 years, including 15 million by 2018.
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The most serious impact will be on Medicaid, which covers one in five Americans but which would be cut by about 35 percent by 2035. The 70 percent of North Carolina Medicaid recipients who are children will be hard hit, as will elderly and disabled adults. Nationally, two-thirds of those in nursing homes are covered by Medicaid. These vulnerable adults may see already limited staffing and services cut – or find themselves ineligible for care.
Even the insured will be hurt, because both access and quality suffer for everyone when providers face increasing numbers of patients who can’t pay.
The subsidies for the 7 percent of people in the private health care market would be less generous than Obamacare’s subsidies, making insurance unaffordable for many.
Even the 49 percent who receive employer-based insurance are not safe, as large employers will no longer be required to provide it. And with the BCRA’s elimination of the individual mandate, healthier people may choose to risk being uninsured, leaving sicker people in the insurance market. That will lead to higher premiums.
The BCRA would cut taxes by hundreds of billions of dollars, mainly to the benefit of drug and insurance corporations and high-income Americans.
Senator Ted Cruz has proposed a “Consumer Freedom Option” that would allow insurers to offer bare-bones policies as long as they offer at least one Affordable Care Act-compliant plan in the state. Added to a revision of the bill, it has now been dropped, but could reappear if the bill comes to the floor.
The CEOs of America’s Health Insurance Plans and Blue Cross Blue Shield Association wrote a letter calling the Cruz amendment “unworkable in any form” and noting that the new plans would “cherry pick” healthy people and “lead to far fewer, if any, coverage options for consumers who purchase their plan in the individual market. As a result, millions of more individuals will become uninsured.”
The Senate could pursue another option and pass a repeal-only bill, but the CBO estimates that would result in 32 million more uninsured in 10 years.
The BCRA has been compared to Robin Hood-in-reverse, stealing from the poor to give to the rich. It reminds me of another hood, Little Red Riding, who expected to find Grandma in bed, but instead discovered a wolf wearing Grandma’s bonnet.
Contact your senators to vote against the motion to proceed. If the bill reaches the floor, tell them to vote against it. Any Obamacare replacement bill should help more people, not fewer. No more hoodwinking the American people.
Jessica Schorr Saxe is a Charlotte physician who is chair of Health Care Justice—NC. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org