Despite 7 years of Republicans in Congress working to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the American Health Care Act (AHCA) died as Speaker of the House Paul Ryan declared, “Obamacare is the law of the land”. Let’s take a look at why:
The AHCA was a terrible health care policy plan. It garnered the support of only 17% of American voters, because it failed to keep them in mind. The AHCA proposed to make drastic cuts to support for low-income households while concurrently permitting big tax cuts to the wealthy. On average, the tax break the AHCA would have granted to each of the 400 highest income households was approximately 7 million dollars every year. This total exceeds all of the Affordable Care Act subsidies in 20 states and the District of Columbia.
Moreover, think tanks didn’t support this bill, regardless of partisanship. Medical provider groups spoke out against it. The Congressional Budget Office (which is considered one of the most credible sources of information regarding proposed legislation) estimated a 20% rise in premiums across the board and noted that seniors would be particularly susceptible to this increase, as health insurance companies would naturally charge them more. For instance, the CBO predicted, that under the AHCA, a 64-year-old that brings in $26,500 every year would see their average net individual insurance premiums go from $1,700 to $14,600. This unaffordability was estimated to cause over 24 million people to lose their health insurance by 2026.
Speaker Paul Ryan attempted to spin the CBO’s report by emphasizing the major costs he would save the government. His attempt was laughable, and people took to social media to complain, make jokes, and organize. Across the country, Congressional leaders received overwhelmingly large numbers of calls and letters from their supporters urging them to vote no. To conjure up votes, Ryan succumbed to some of the House Freedom Caucus’s last minute revisions that further disgusted health care experts nationwide. Timothy Jost, a writer from Heath Affairs, stated “This comprehensive repeal of the ACA would have far-ranging consequences for our health care system that can scarcely be described, much less understood, in the hours that remain before a vote”.
Perhaps, the AHCA was so bad, because the Affordable Care Act stole a lot of Republican good ideas. The reality is the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, is a very moderate law, and worked to encompass a wide array of traditionally conservative strategies. The main features of the ACA are the tax credit for the purchase of commercial health insurance and the tax-driven mandate that makes everyone responsible to buy health insurance. Prior to Obama’s term, those two features had been the centerpieces of numerous Republican health reform proposals. The ACA also included a number of other conservative strategies to keep costs down like instituting price and value transparency so consumers could compare their coverage options side-by-side and placing a greater emphasis on preventative care and community health centers. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office proposed that the ACA would reduce the deficit by approximately as much as the AHCA would have.
Although the fight over healthcare reform has not ended, we can hope for more bipartisanship. In response to the panic of the AHCA, many different stakeholders have made it clear what techniques could help stabilize the market and increase competition. All legislators have to do is listen and work together. In addition, state governments can now better understand and work to uphold the significant responsibilities they have in protecting the livelihoods of their residents. Lastly, the AHCA’s failure highlights the important impact everyday people have in ensuring that their Congressional representatives will represent their interests, as there is no doubt that the overwhelming calls and letters affected lawmakers’ ultimate decisions.
The war over the AHCA is done, but the war over health care reform is far from over.
“Nobody knew healthcare would be so complicated.” – President Donald J. Trump