March 15, 2017 under Posts

The Importance of Understanding the American Health Care Act

By Jennifer Jones Austin

During Donald Trump’s presidential campaign he promised legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare.  On March 6, 2017 this promise began to materialize when the Republican leadership in Congress introduced a repeal and replacement bill named the American Health Care Act (AHCA).  While the AHCA retains positive aspects of the ACA such as allowing children to continue on their parent’s health insurance plans to age 26 and continuing the ban on annual or lifetime limits, it fails to guarantee universal affordable health care coverage.  Another aspect of the Republican health care plan that appears to take a positive page from the ACA is the commitment to ensuring health care coverage for those individuals with pre-existing conditions.  Although included in the AHCA it comes with a caveat – individuals with pre-existing conditions must maintain continuous coverage; a significant break could result in a 30 percent penalty on top of their premiums for up to a year.  This does not fare well for the millions of individuals who experience chronic illness or disability.  It is not unusual for an individual with a chronic or serious illness to have breaks in employment, which may result in a lapse in payment for health insurance.

FPWA is committed to advocating for policies which promote upward mobility and economic opportunity with special attention to marginalized and vulnerable populations. We are dedicated to promoting policies and programs which uplift our fellow New Yorkers.  The American Health Care Act is in direct opposition to our mission as this new bill will not aid in uplifting the most vulnerable, low income individuals, children and families in our city, state and nation.

This new bill does not guarantee universal healthcare coverage, limits and cuts off Medicaid expansion, and eliminates subsidies under ACA in favor of tax credits, all of which will leave millions of Americans without healthcare, especially low-income and poor Americans, the elderly, and the sick.  We should be concerned about this bill because:

  • It will roll back Medicaid expansion by shifting $370 billion to states over the next 10 years, which eventually would end Medicaid expansion for 14 million individuals by 2020
  • Instead of the ongoing Federal commitment to sharing in the costs of providing comprehensive coverage for Medicaid eligible individuals and families, states would receive capped funding for Medicaid
  • For the millions of individuals who utilize Medicaid, the phase out of Medicaid expansion will result in the loss of the essential benefits package which includes maternity and pediatric services
  • The phase out of Medicaid also has the potential to harm the thirty-five percent of low-income Medicaid beneficiaries, and 13 percent of non-elderly adult beneficiaries who have chronic mental illness.

The Republican healthcare plan will have detrimental consequences for the citizens of New York. According to an analysis of the plan by Governor Andrew Cuomo the AHCA stands to cost the state of New York more than $4.5 billion over the next four years. A New York Department of Health report estimates 1 million New Yorkers stand to see a significant reduction or loss of health care coverage under the Republican health care plan. The report also concluded that the repeal of the ACA would end the Essential Health Plan for the 665,000 low-income New Yorkers who are not eligible for Medicaid or Child Health Plus.

FPWA supports the sentiments of Governor Cuomo when he states “”New York’s entire delegation – Democrats and Republicans – need to stand up and they need to fight, stand against this regressive plan and protect the people they are sworn to represent.” FPWA will continue to advocate for just policies concerning universal affordable healthcare coverage. We strongly oppose the American Health Care Act.

Jennifer Jones Austin is the CEO and Executive Director at FPWA and is co-host of a segment about poverty and national policy for the nationally syndicated radio show, Keepin’ It Real with Rev. Al Sharpton, which airs Thursdays at 2:00 pm ET.