Health Insurance HQ distills the current political activity around health care into a brief, monthly educational update to help you become a more active consumer and citizen. Our experts in the field and others in our community are here to provide you with plenty of handy resources to help you use your voice and your vote to make a difference.
Since our last HQ, the Senate introduced a bill similar to the American Health Care Act (which we profiled in our March 2017 edition). The Better Care Reconciliation Act, crafted by Mitch McConnell (R-KY), was an overwhelmingly unpopular plan. It cut Medicaid spending by $772 billion over the next 10 years, reduced the financial aid available to middle-income Americans who buy coverage on the Exchanges, and would have resulted in approximately 22 million more Americans being uninsured by 2026. In addition, this bill would kill hundreds of thousands of jobs in the health care sector. “Public health experts at George Washington University estimate that 912,000 health care workers in the United States could lose their jobs if Congress rolls back the Medicaid expansion and removes tax credits to help people buy private insurance.” McConnell was forced to go back to the drawing board right before the July 4 Congressional recess because he couldn’t get enough support from his own party to vote on it.
McConnell is in a bit of a pickle: he has to bring the most conservative and the most moderate Republicans into agreement on this bill, and they are quite far apart. (No Democratic senators have supported it). Word is that McConnell is looking at an amendment that Sen.Ted Cruz (R-TX) introduced to appease both sides. The amendment keeps ACA regulations in place, including the requirement that insurers offer plans with 10 essential benefits, and the prohibition against charging the sick more in premiums. However, insurers would be allowed to sell skimpier plans that don’t fulfill these regulations, as long as they sell at least one plan on the Exchange that does.
This might sound reasonable, but in practice, what will likely happen is that the healthy will buy the cheaper plans with less coverage, but those with pre–existing conditions will want the ACA–compliant plans. This will lead to insurers raising rates for everyone under those plans. “This type of parallel structure, in practice, undermines the protections for people with pre-existing conditions,” said Matthew Fiedler, a fellow at the Center for Health Policy with the Brooking Institution's Economic Studies Program.
It remains to be seen if this amendment will bring the two sides together. However, the pressure is on for them to do something, since repealing Obamacare has been a feature of their platform for so many years. And, as John Thune (R-SD) said, “If we don’t get this done and we end up with Democratic majorities in ‘18, we’ll have single payer.”
If you're concerned about the radical changes to the health care system being proposed by either of these bills, see our February issue of HQ on how to reach out to your elected officials. Public pressure, including stories of how the ACA has helped you or your family, is one reason why your Senators have had second thoughts about their vote. Let's continue to give them something to think about.
Yours in good health,
National Director, Health Services
Do you work in performing arts and entertainment and have questions about health insurance? The Actors Fund provides assistance nationally. Contact our regional office closest to you to speak to a counselor.
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Don’t forget to use the resources section of our website. It contains tools to help you make decisions about your health insurance, including new online tutorials on how to choose providers and how to read an Explanation of Benefits. In addition, you’ll find an updated Stage Managers National Health Directory, our national online directory of health care providers recommended by industry professionals that can be used by theatres and touring companies. For these resources and more, visit actorsfund.org/HealthServices. You can also find out more about enrollment assistance and upcoming health insurance seminars near you!