An Update on Healthcare Reform
In March, Republicans failed to repeal Obamacare and replace it with the American Health Care Act (AHCA). It was a troubling moment for a new Republican regime that, for years, had promised to repeal Obamacare.
The AHCA was a flawed bill. It attempted to appease varied conservative interests, but it ended up being a convoluted mess that only alienated hard-line and moderate Republicans. Far-right conservatives thought the bill was Obamacare-lite, while moderates were concerned the bill failed to protect the interests of both their lower-income and sicker constituents.
According to Politico, Republicans have come to a tentative agreement that would appease the conflicting interests of their party. The conservative Republicans have agreed to reinstate Obamacare’s Essential Health Benefits, which was stricken from the original AHCA. According to this provision, all health plans must provide health benefits such as mental health and addiction treatment, preventive services, ambulatory care, and more—all with no limit. This appeases moderate Republicans who were worried about their constituents, as the provision prevents insurers from providing bare-bones coverage. In exchange for this, moderate Republicans have agreed to permit states to opt out of Obamacare’s community rating provision—this means that insurance companies can charge higher premiums to individuals with pre-existing conditions. This is a win for fiscally conservative Republicans because it’ll theoretically lower health insurance prices, at least for healthy individuals.
The compromise does satisfy the interests of many Republicans. But, even with the agreement, the health care bill does not protect the rights of their constituents. The inclusion of the Essential Health Benefits is huge, and it’ll certainly benefit all. However, allowing states to opt out of the community rating provision can be devastating. Sure, if states decide to opt out, it’ll lower healthcare costs for relatively healthy people. However, many sick people who need health care the most will lose access to coverage because it’ll be too expensive for them.
Although Obamacare was considered unpopular to many, the provision that prevented insurers from discriminating against pre-existing conditions was popular among both major political parties. In fact, both President Trump and Paul Ryan stated that individuals with pre-existing conditions would be protected by a new health care bill. Clearly, the new compromise directly contradicts their promises.
Republicans formed a compromise to increase their chances of getting the 216 votes needed to pass a new health care bill. But, with this tentative agreement, it seems that Republicans made politics a much greater priority than the health of their constituents.
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