By – Parker Erickson
Since the GOP-controlled House introduced its plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (the ACA or Obamacare), there has been questions as to where the largest conservative seniors’ group stands on the issue. The bill before the House this week is called the American Health Care Act, or the AHCA, and it’s received a mixed bag of responses from legislators in Washington. Some conservatives have labeled the Republican proposal as Obamacare-light, and for 12 hours, the Democratic Caucus sought to rename the AHCA the Pay More for Less Act.
For years, AMAC has repeatedly called on Congress to repeal the Obama Administration’s failed health care law, and to put the power of health care choices back into the hands of patients. AMAC’s ultimate goal has been and will continue to be the complete repeal and replacement of Obamacare. As a first step, the AHCA lays the necessary foundation for more robust and necessary changes to repeal Obamacare in its entirety.
During our conversations with Freedom Caucus Republicans, House Leadership, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Trump Administration, AMAC has chosen to support the AHCA for the following reasons:
Obamacare is unsustainable
To our membership all over the country, this is not news. Millions of seniors and millions of younger Americans have lost their coverage. How often have we heard the promise, “if you like your plan you can keep your plan,” and “if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor?” Time has proven those promises false as millions of seniors and everyday Americans received insurance cancellation notices in the mail, and as doctors shuttered their doors to life-long patients. Obamacare has failed.
While losing your doctor and plan should have been enough to discredit the law, Obamacare limped on for years, continuing to cause damage. Anyone who’s watched the news (or listened to Democrats during the debates over the AHCA) has seen that in some states, premiums went up by over 100%. Deductibles are through the roof, and even if you can afford to pay to be enrolled in insurance, you can’t afford your deductible and you can’t afford to see the doctor.
What good is health insurance if you can’t use it? A plastic card that says you’re insured does not mean you have the health care you want, need, or can afford. Something needs to be done before the entire system implodes.
Elimination of the individual and employer mandates imposed by the Federal Government
The AHCA eliminates the individual and employer mandates. Last year alone, the IRS reported that 6.5 million people paid the individual mandate “penalty” for not having health insurance. That’s 6.5 million people who would rather pay an annual, one-time penalty and go without insurance rather than pay the monthly premiums to enroll in insurance. The Federal government should not be in the business of telling private citizens what they should or should not buy.
The repeal of the individual and employer mandates will save millions of dollars to individual Americans and stop the federal government’s obstruction of small business growth. No matter what incentive, mandate, or fine the federal government imposes, some people do not want health insurance. As freedom-loving conservatives, we understand that the government should have minimal (if any) input in how we live our day-to-day lives. The AHCA rolls back the gross federal expansion of the individual and employer mandates.
Expanded use of Health Savings Accounts (HSA)
AMAC has long-supported the expansion of HSAs to improve individuals’ abilities to save for health care expenses. While we feel this bill does not go far enough in expanding the use of HSAs, the raising of the cap on contributions to double what it is now is a good first step.
AMAC’s own HSA, the Trump HSA (named in honor of our president), would eliminate the cap on savings, allow patients to use their savings to pay premiums, and allow the HSA more portability and transferability. Again, the operative word in the AHCA is first step. While AMAC wants more out of HSA expansion, the AHCA opens the door to more robust expansion in the future.
It protects those who had no choice but to get on an Obamacare Exchange
While AMAC wants and calls for a complete repeal and replacement, the reality is that millions of Americans were forced off their private insurance plans and onto federally run exchanges. We want the federal government out of health care. We want the states to have more autonomy in determining what their constituencies need. We need less bureaucracy in health care decisions.
But, we can’t kick millions of people off their plans when Obamacare forced them off their plans in the first place. The AHCA slowly weens States off the bottomless pit of money Medicaid and other federally run exchanges have relied on. As seniors know all-too-well, when spending someone else’s money (the taxpayers), governments are less careful than if they were spending their own money.
The AHCA protects those, who through no fault of their own, were forced into federally run exchanges and gives them an appropriate timetable to find alternative options.
It’s a first step
Repeatedly, we’ve heard from President Trump, Secretary Tom Price, M.D., and Republican House Leadership that this is the first step in the process to repeal and replace. In fact, President Trump has said this bill is open to “negotiation,” and House Republicans are using “regular order” to get input from all sides of the political spectrum.
Already, the Republican House has devoted more time for debate than Obamacare did, and the open discussion is creating a blueprint for phases two and three of the Republican plan to Repeal, Replace, and Restore health care choices to patients. AMAC is supporting this bill as a first step, and will be heavily involved in ensuring conservatives seniors have a seat at the table for phases two and three of the process.
AMAC has been and will continue to be the voice of conservative seniors. Seniors mobilized in 2010 to take back the House of Representatives. In 2014, seniors put Republicans in control of the Senate to stop President Obama in the final years of his presidency. And, in 2016, seniors made America Great Again by electing President Donald J. Trump to be our 45th president.
Seniors have worked to take their country back and to ensure they leave a better, more prosperous future for their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. This first step in repealing and replacing Obamacare isn’t about a single bill—it’s about returning power to the states, shrinking the federal government, and putting health care decisions back into the hands of the patients.
Just as seniors have done in the past, if this process does not lead to the results we want—well, our track-record is pretty strong. We’ll hold our elected leaders accountable at the ballot box.