Overhaul of the American healthcare system threatens the progress made by the ACA

 

The new Republican replacement for the ACA targets the elderly, women, and low-income Americans, and will have drastically negative effects upon the nation

 

The most lauded and simultaneously criticized aspect of President’s Obama’s eight years as president was undoubtedly The Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. A sweeping overhaul of the American healthcare system, the ACA was the first nationwide healthcare reform program since 1965. Fully implemented in 2014, the ACA has enrolled over 23 million Americans in health insurance programs in only three years and has drastically reduced the overall uninsured population of the nation. For millions of Americans throughout the nation, health insurance was a distant thought prior to passage of the ACA; millions gained affordable health insurance for the first time under ACA, and the life-saving significance of the program, regardless of your political opinion, simply cannot be overlooked.

 

The ultimate and perhaps most unforeseen failure of the ACA was the program’s negative effect upon healthcare premiums. A premium is essentially the monthly amount a citizen pays their healthcare provider for coverage. Under the ACA, premiums in 31 states are expected to rise by double digit percentages over the next year. In Arizona, however, there is expected to be a more than a 100 percent increase in the monthly premiums of insured citizens. This consequence of the ACA, easily used as unsound motivation to replace the entire system, is truly one of the few failures of the overall program. However, the rising premiums were an immense error for the ACA, and one cannot blame lawmakers for wanting to improve that particular concept.

Praised by many citizens nationwide and opposed by a small collection of wealthy Republican lawmakers — who, unsurprisingly, have little to no experience participating in the program — repealing the ACA has been a top priority of the Republican Party since 2010, when the ACA existed merely as a House Bill 3962. President Trump coordinated a large portion of his campaign around the repealing and replacement of the ACA, infamously offering no replacement plan — or even minutely hinting at how the program would be altered — throughout the entirety of his campaign. Facts, ideas, or even a poorly constructed plan, however, are no longer required by the American public; a rude tweet at Rosie O’Donnell and a sexist comment or two are enough to win you the presidency these days. Nevertheless, as Trump took office in January, the future of the American healthcare system — specifically what would become of the ACA — remained a mystery to the nation.

 

Republican members of Congress, under the harebrained leadership of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, revealed their proposed replacement for the ACA on March 6. Rather than simply attempting to correct the failures of the ACA, primarily that of rising premiums, Republicans instead proposed a widespread overhaul of the entire system. Coined “The American Healthcare Act,” the plan differs quite substantially from the ACA and works to remove nearly the entirety of the gains brought about by the ACA.

 

Some of the highlights — if you could call such purposeful attacks upon low-income citizen, women and elderly Americans highlights — of the new Republican healthcare plan include the slashing of Medicaid funding for all Americans who enroll after 2019, the ability for states to deny Medicaid funding for “essential health benefits” such as maternity coverage, prescription drugs and mental health care screenings to citizens after 2019 and the complete removal of cost-sharing subsidies for low-income Americans after 2019. Furthermore, while the plan removes the penalty tax placed upon Americans who refuse to purchase health insurance, it simultaneously removes the penalty tax placed upon large business and corporations who refuse to offer affordable healthcare plans for their workers. A one-year moratorium will also be placed upon federal funding of healthcare clinics — such as Planned Parenthood — that offer abortion services to their patients. Finally, Medicaid coverage for long-term nursing home stays remain uncertain amidst rising premium hikes for those over 65, negatively pinpointing the rapidly expanding elderly population of the nation.

 

Surprisingly, the new plan maintains the provision allowing young adults to remain insured beneath their parents’ insurance plan until the age of 26. Furthermore, insurance companies will still be unable to deny coverage to Americans with pre-existing medical conditions. They can, however, enforce a 30 percent penalty upon those who have not maintained continuous healthcare coverage; the Continuous Coverage provision is essentially an alternative avenue of persecuting Americans with pre-existing medical conditions. These two aspects of the plan — albeit truly only the former — are the only redeemable aspects of the new healthcare plan. That is perhaps the saddest concept of the entire plan: millions of dollars are being wasted to create an entirely new healthcare plan that provides fewer benefits to the American public than the previous attempt.

 

Projections hold that the new Republican healthcare program will increase the uninsured population of the nation by nearly 24 million over the next decade, radically affecting the future of our nation’s health. The negative ramifications of the new Republican plan are truly endless at this point, as the program quite literally does nothing to aid the millions of Americans who need health insurance the most and require financial assistance in securing an insurance plan. By repealing and replacing the ACA, slashing Medicaid coverage and removing cost-sharing subsidies, the Republican lawmakers have essentially issued death sentences to many American citizens. Should this bill pass and become law in the future, I hope each and every lawmaker understands that the potentially preventable deaths of thousands of Americans are directly linked to their careless, shameful and dangerous actions.

 

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