By now, everyone knows that the American Health Care Act – the GOP’s slapdash replacement for Obamacare – is terrible. But just how terrible is it, really? Jon Perr answers that very question in a recent piece published this week on Daily Kos.
Comparing the AHCA to Obamacare is the only way to fully understand how ruinous it would be. Under Obamacare, every insurance plan was required to provide a range of essential health benefits.
“These provisions regarding prescription drug coverage, hospitalization, out-patient treatment, mental health care, pregnancy and maternity care, and much more not only set a baseline for insurance offerings under Obamacare, but also help spread the risk for insurers across a much larger pool of policyholders. The ACA also bans discriminating against those with preexisting conditions (estimated by [the Kaiser Family Foundation] at 27 percent of those under age 64) and other insidious insurance practices like ‘rescission’ (dropping policyholders when they get sick).”
But under the AHCA, states can choose to waive these essential health benefits, empowering local insurance providers to offer almost anything as “insurance.” Under the definition of health coverage used by the Congressional Budget Office in its scoring estimates, many of the plans offered under the AHCA might not even qualify as health insurance.
“If there were no clear definition of what type of insurance product people could use their tax credit to purchase, everyone who received the tax credit would have access to some limited set of health care services, at a minimum, but not everyone would have insurance coverage that offered financial protection against a high-cost or catastrophic medical event; CBO and [the Joint Committee on Taxation] would not count those people with limited health benefits as having coverage.”
In other words, you might pay money each month to your insurance provider, but in return, your insurance might not cover any of the things that you’d reasonably expect it to.
After the introduction of the original version of the AHCA back in March, Larry Leavitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation warned that even if the GOP’s bill led to the creation of new insurance plans, the problem would remain.
“With no benefit requirements, insurance policies could get quite skimpy. No insurer wants to be the one most attractive to sick people. With no required benefits, some (like mental health or maternity) would be very expensive because only people who need them would buy them.”
The AHCA has lots of problems, but the main issue is that its metric for success is quite different than that of Obamacare.
Obamacare was about expanding access to health insurance and primary care. The AHCA, at its heart, is really about three things, only one of which has any bearing on healthcare.
- First, it’s meant to fulfill the Republicans’ eight-year-old pledge to repeal and replace Obamacare.
- Second, it’s meant to give the rich a massive tax break.
- And third, it’s meant to bring down premiums (for the young and healthy, at least).
But instead of doing it intelligently (by managing the market), they’re doing it by kicking millions off the health insurance rolls and enabling insurers to dramatically reduce the efficacy of their coverage.
Featured image via YouTube video.
H/T to Jon Perr and Daily Kos.