(Washington, D.C.) -- A nonpartisan coalition of patient and consumer groups representing millions of Americans issued the following comments today on the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) new score of the American Health Care Act (AHCA), passed by the House on May 4:
CBO's new score of the AHCA should seal its fate as a flawed bill that needs to be immediately discarded.
This latest review indicates that even the revised version of the AHCA, passed by the House, would still take away coverage from 23 million Americans in the next decade. All coverage gains from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would likely vanish, and the uninsured rate for those below age 65 could shoot to more than 51 million.
We implore the Senate to start from scratch and come up with a bill that puts patients ahead of politics and improves the health care coverage Americans have come to depend on under current law. We strongly believe the principles collectively endorsed by our coalition provide clear guidance to help lawmakers craft a more effective bill that will ensure everyone has affordable, accessible, and adequate coverage.
Coverage should not be jeopardized by any replacement plan. Yet the AHCA would cause one out of 10 non-elderly Americans to lose their health insurance and would also drop 14 million or 17 percent from the Medicaid rolls by 2026, putting children, older adults, and disabled people of all ages at risk for losing the long-term services and support they rely on. The number of uninsured would be disproportionally higher among older Americans, age 50-64 with low incomes, according to CBO.
Affordability should be maintained at all costs. The financial burden imposed on Americans under the AHCA would strip away affordable coverage that includes reasonable premiums and cost-sharing for individuals who are less healthy, older, and low income. Age-rating changes would reduce premiums for young adults but hike them for older people. For a typical 64-year-old making $26,500 a year, premiums (after accounting for tax credits) could rise by more than $14,000 a year or eight-fold.
Accessibility means that any patient protections currently in place need to be preserved. This is not the case with the House bill, which would let states reinstate medical underwriting for people with pre-existing conditions and open the door for employers and insurers to bring back annual and lifetime limits on health insurance, leaving Americans with chronic illnesses out in the cold once again without coverage. In states that obtain waivers for essential health benefits and community ratings, premiums would rise over time for those Americans who are less healthy. They would also increase for individuals with pre-existing conditions, CBO says, even though additional funding was included in the amended AHCA.
Adequate health benefits, including coverage of essential health benefits, must be maintained. Under the GOP's proposal, cheaper insurance may be an option and a reason for premiums to drop for healthy people, but you will only get what you pay for -- less comprehensive care and treatment. CBO posits that half the nation's population lives in states that would make changes to essential benefits. Americans who now rely on services that include maternity care, mental health and substance abuse benefits, rehabilitative and habilitative services, and pediatric dental benefits will either have to pay thousands of dollars for them or give them up.
We urge the Senate to remember the voters they serve will be patients at some point and will hold them accountable if the health insurance they need is not there.
Patient and Consumer Groups:
American Heart Association
American Lung Association
Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
Lutheran Services in America
March of Dimes
National Health Council
National MS Society
WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease