Opinion: Editorial: Killing the Poor to Pay Millionaires

Opinion: Editorial: Killing the Poor to Pay Millionaires

Even employer provided insurance would suffer; coverage caps and exclusions of pre-existing conditions could return.

The U.S. Senate bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act would take more than $600 billion (yes with a B) from poor children, poor elders and people with disabilities to give a tax cut to people who make more than $200,000 a year. Households with income of $1 million, would gain $50,000 in tax cuts per year. It is a massive transfer of wealth to the wealthiest households in America taken from the most vulnerable and neediest people. It would lead to more sick people and thousands of preventable deaths every year.

While much of the damage is done by massive cuts to Medicaid, affecting poor children, people with disabilities and most people in nursing homes, some of the changes will result in damage to the quality of insurance for those who get their insurance from their employers as well.

What could go wrong?

  • Millions of people lose their health insurance — 22 million fewer would have health insurance by 2026 according to the Congressional Budget Office analysis.
  • Loss of coverage for pre-existing conditions, including cancer survivors, people who had transplants, people with asthma, arthritis, high cholesterol, hypertension, obesity, mental health issues, ADD, etc.
  • States could opt out of the law's essential health benefits measure, which requires insurers to cover 10 main benefits, including hospitalization, prescription drugs and other services. That is, companies could sell health insurance that wouldn’t actually be health insurance. Would Virginia be a state that opts out? Quite likely.
  • Ending annual and lifetime coverage caps would also impact people who get health insurance from their employers and the private insurance market. For example, a serious accident or an illness that requires repeated surgeries or bone marrow transplants could put any one of us over the coverage cap.
  • Medicaid pays public schools for many services for special education students, but the Senate bill removes schools from eligible Medicaid providers, costing Virginia an estimated $40 million annually; $3 million in Fairfax County; $2 million in the City of Alexandria.
  • $800 billion plus in cuts to Medicaid puts the funding for most people who are currently in nursing homes at risk. Many of these are people who were middle class and but outlived their savings and coverage.
  • In Virginia, the proposed changes to Medicaid would cost the state $1.4 billion over seven years.
  • Medicaid pays for much of the fight against opioid addiction, including treatment. Cuts would be devastating to efforts to counter the wave of overdose deaths and other effects of addiction.
  • Coverage for mental health treatment, including addiction treatment, is threatened both by cuts to Medicaid and by changes in the private insurance market.
  • There will be greater need for Medicaid over time. More seniors will be poor, as fewer people who are retiring have pensions or adequate retirement savings. The demand for nursing home beds will be increasing as the population ages.

(This is by no means a comprehensive list of problems.)

If a version of the Senate bill were to pass, the results will be harmful to tens of millions of Americans. Call your senators. Virginia’s U.S. Senators, Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, are both Democrats in the forefront of pushing back against this bill. But let them know you expect them to do the extraordinary to hold this up. Call the senators listed below and tell them to vote against it.

Ask family and friends to call their senators today.

If you have family or friends who live in West Virginia, Louisiana, Maine, Nevada, Alaska or Ohio, their calls are especially important. Senators Shelley Capito (R-WV); Bill Cassidy (R-LA); Susan Collins (R-ME); Dean Heller (R-NV); Lisa Murkowski (R-AK); Rob Portman (R-OH) are among those reported to be possible opponents of this proposal.

The U.S. Capitol Switchboard number is 202-224-3121, and a switchboard operator will connect you directly with the Senate office you request.

— Mary Kimm