For 27 straight hours last week, I worked with my Democratic colleagues at the Energy and Commerce Committee to fight against the Republican’s plan to take health insurance away from millions of Americans. The American Health Care Act is one of the worst bills I’ve ever seen and the process was a horrible one. No hearings. No expert witnesses. No scoring of impacts by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). We were forced to debate this bill before the CBO could even measure the impacts of this disastrous legislation.
The CBO score was released on March 13th and proved what we already knew: the American Health Care Act reduces benefits and increases costs. Period. According to the CBO, it would result in 14 million individuals losing insurance coverage in 2018, and premiums would increase by an average of 15 to 20 percent for less coverage. The CBO also reported that by 2026, 24 million people will lose their coverage, and the uninsured rate will reach a staggering 52 million people nationwide.
Beyond the rise of the uninsured rate under this bill, the American Health Care Act also increases out of pocket costs for those who are able to keep their insurance coverage. The legislation strips out subsidies for premiums based on income levels and replaces them with a refundable tax credit based on age, providing less assistance to those who need it most, including those who live in areas with a high cost of living such as Silicon Valley. It creates an ‘age tax’ on Americans between the ages of 54 and 63, charging them 5 times as much as young people for their insurance premiums.
The bill also shifts Medicaid (known as Medi-Cal in California) costs to states and counties and ends the Medicaid expansion, which California has successfully and efficiently implemented. It leaves Medi-Cal beneficiaries without the services and coverage they rely on by repealing Essential Health Benefits, which include guaranteed coverage of outpatient care; emergency room visits; mental health and substance use disorder services; prescription drug benefits; lab tests; pediatric care and preventive services for the 13 million Californians enrolled in Medi-Cal, representing 30 percent of all Californians.
This bill is opposed by every organization that is part of the health care delivery system in California and nationwide, including the California Hospital Association, the California Medical Association, the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, AARP, America’s Health Insurance Plans and numerous patient and advocacy groups.
Today the House Budget Committee reported the American Health Care Act out of Committee and the legislation is expected to come from the full House next week. I will continue to fight the repeal of the ACA with every fiber of my being and oppose the American Health Care Act and the wrecking it represents for the American people.
Anna G. Eshoo