Now in its sixth year, the Affordable Care Act continues working to strengthen America’s health security. The uninsurance rate is now under 10 percent for the first time ever. 20 million Americans now have health coverage they didn’t before. Health costs have slowed considerably, saving the nation trillions of dollars.
The law’s measures cutting waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare have boosted the program’s solvency by 11 years. Seniors have saved billions of dollars on prescription drugs as the ACA has closed the Part D coverage gap. Improvements in the quality of hospital care have prevented 87,000 deaths since 2010.
And all consumers have been shielded consumers from the worst insurance industry practices of the past, like dropping people when they get sick, denying coverage to any of the 129 million Americans with “pre-existing conditions”, charging women higher premiums than men, imposing lifetime cap, or fleecing consumers with exorbitant premium increases of 30 percent or more without justification.
Not a single Republican in Congress voted for the Affordable Care Act, but they’ve now voted over 60 times to repeal or undermine the law. Despite Obamacare having been twice upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court as legal and constitutional, Republicans still won’t let it go. One of Paul Ryan’s first acts as Speaker was to waste more time sending a bill to the President repealing his signature achievement.
Republicans have the “repeal” part down pat, but when it comes to “replacing” Obamacare, six years later, they’re still “working” on that. In all this time, Republicans haven’t put forward a single serious alternative that doesn’t purposely strip away coverage from millions of Americans. Speaker Ryan recently rolled out a vague outline of a replacement plan that while laughably light on details, was just detailed enough to show what a gift to the big insurance companies it would be.
Speaker Ryan says he wants to continue the Affordable Care Act’s protections for those with pre-existing conditions, but only if they maintain “continuous” coverage. That means if you have a pre-existing condition and experience a break in coverage (even for a month) for any number of good reasons (like losing your job), you no longer have guaranteed access to insurance. Letting insurance companies off the hook from covering up to 89 million sick Americans is not a serious health plan. It’s a joke that only Big Insurance lobbyists find funny. As the Urban Institute explains, “If you slip through the cracks, your penalty is you may never be able to get health-insurance coverage again.”
GOP Presidential nominee Donald Trump says he too wants to repeal Obamacare in its entirety, but his “replacement” plan has been described by independent analysts as “worthless”, “unworkable” “So Bad He Might as Well Not Have One at All”. Even Republican health care experts call it an “incoherent mishmash that could jeopardize coverage for millions of newly insured people.”
Outside Washington, several Republican Governors continue to refuse federal resources available under Obamacare to expand coverage to hardworking citizens that are not impoverished enough to qualify for Medicaid but earn too much to qualify for subsidies to get private insurance in the new health law’s Exchange. 19 states have not yet moved forward with the law’s Medicaid expansion, and as a result, millions of low-income people have been locked out of affordable health care. Republican Governors think they’re sticking it to President Obama, but they’re only hurting their own citizens, including those who have insurance. They ignore the fact that hospitals in Medicaid expansion states saved $7.4 billion in 2014 because there were fewer cases of uncompensated care at the ER, costs which were previously passed on to taxpayers and the insured. People with insurance in non-Medicaid expansion states are left to pay higher premiums to make up for the uncompensated care of those who would otherwise be covered under Medicaid expansion.
Republicans only have one alternative to Obamacare. To go back to the dark days when insurance companies could get between you and your doctor. It’s called the “Don’t Dare Get Sick Plan.”
Questions to Ask
- You’ve voted dozens of times to repeal the Affordable Care Act. It’s been six years. Where is your alternative plan? If you are successful in repealing the law, how exactly will you ensure all Americans have access to quality, affordable health care? Can you guarantee that the 20 million Americans who’ve gained coverage under the law will keep it?
- Since the beginning of the health care debate, you and your Republican colleagues predicted Obamacare would be a “job-killer” that would cause another recession. But in fact, businesses have added jobs every single month since the President signed it into law. A total of 3 million jobs have been created — the longest streak of private-sector job growth in history. And a recent Indiana University study found no evidence that Obamacare has caused full time workers to lose hours or be pushed into part-time status. Now that Republicans have been proven wrong about jobs and death panels and predictions that no one would sign up for the exchanges, how can we take any claim you make about the law seriously today when you all have been proven wrong again and again and again?
- Do you agree with Speaker Paul Ryan that health protections should continue for those with pre-existing conductions, but only if they maintain “continuous” coverage? If so, what’s your answer for the potentially millions of Americans who might have a lapse in coverage after losing their job and will never be able to regain it under this plan?