Ok guys, what’s the plan for the Affordable Care Act?
As America awaits the reality of a Republican-controlled Congress and White House, one thing has been made disturbingly clear to American families. The Trump Administration and Ryan-McConnell Congress are hell-bent on scoring political points by ending the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Experts and economists are already warning of the tremendous economic and public health implications. Meanwhile, advocates and constituents are deeply concerned about what will happen to the millions of lives that have been made healthy and longer thanks to the ACA.
In lieu of constructive recommendations from Congressional Republicans, for six years, all the American people have heard is scripted, divisive “repeal and replace” rhetoric. Now that all levers of power are controlled by Republicans, I have a simple question for my GOP colleagues: “Ok guys, what’s the plan?”
Does your replacement plan for the ACA protect Americans from being denied coverage because they have a pre-existing condition like cancer, cystic fibrous or diabetes? Will our sex go back to being a pre-existing condition for me and America’s other 126 million women?
What about the removal of lifetime caps on care for Americans living with dementia or tuberous sclerosis? Will insurance companies be allowed to stop care at some point?
In the same vein, we added rules preventing health insurers from discriminating. Are you planning to keep that or will you allow corporate executives to decide who is allowed to have coverage?
Under the ACA, companies cannot charge older Americans more than 300 percent of what they charge someone who is 21. I know that the seniors in my district support this provision. Will your legislation protect older Americans from paying significantly more than their children and grandchildren?
One of the most heralded provisions allows young people under the age of 26 to remain on their parent’s health insurance plans. This allows young people to be covered, stay healthy and save money while attending college, learning a skill or looking for their first job. Will the GOP replacement still allow these 3 million young people to continue to have health insurance?
Right now, healthcare benefits from employers are an untaxed benefit. However, a bill first introduced in 2014 by three Senate Republicans would make these benefits taxable. Noted bioethicist, Ezekiel Emanuel, estimates that a family of four earning $150,000 per year could see a $1,500 tax hike. Is the GOP planning to raise taxes on working families just because they get health insurance through work?
In the last fifteen years, the number of opioid overdose deaths jumped 200 percent and continues growing. Key provisions in the ACA ensure that insurance plans include coverage for mental and behavioral healthcare, including addiction treatment. Will your replacement allow Americans struggling with addiction to get the help they need to rebuild their lives and contribute to society?
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that under the current system, 93 percent of American would have health insurance by 2026. Will the GOP plan keep us on track toward reducing the uninsured rate to zero or will some families just be out of luck?
All in all, the American people and Congress have a lot of questions about the GOP’s plan for our access to healthcare. Despite all the questions – including the hundreds of calls that my office has received – we still have no answers.
Is this all message or is there a plan?
Rep. Kelly represents Illinois 2nd District and chairs the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust.