March 7, 2017
OLYMPIA, Wash. – The Congressional Republicans’ plan to replace the Affordable Care Act is a step backward for the millions of people who have gained coverage. It’s being rushed to a vote with little or no public review or fiscal analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. This is an unprecedented way of doing the public’s business.
As a former member of Congress and our state’s insurance regulator, I am troubled by the lack of transparency.
Republicans who devised this scheme are silent about how this bill guarantees or improves upon the coverage people have today.
My office will have a more detailed analysis of the Republican plan in the coming days. Our initial review highlights ways the proposal threatens consumers:
- Eliminates the individual mandate. Dropping the individual mandate for coverage could prompt insurers to flee the market if not enough healthy people buy insurance. Washington state tried a similar measure in the 1990s and saw the individual health insurance market collapse.
- Surcharge no substitute for mandate. A 30 percent surcharge for a gap in coverage of more than two months – billed as “continuous coverage” – is a weak attempt to replace the individual mandate.
- Inequitable tax credits. Tax credits replace income-based subsidies, meaning the poorest residents are at risk of eventually losing or foregoing coverage.
- Tax shelter for higher incomes. Expanded use of health savings accounts – or tax shelters – fail to help low-income people who have no money to put into this type of account.
- Older people pay more. Older people will pay significantly more for coverage in a couple of ways. The Republicans’ plan allows insurers to charge older consumers up to five times more than younger consumers. It replaces income-based subsidies with age-based tax credits, which possibly may not offset increased premiums.
- No coverage for abortion. The proposal forbids tax credits for any health care plan that covers abortions. This is a direct attack on women’s rights and would lead to higher costs overall.
Despite keeping some of the most popular protections of the Affordable Care Act, the Republican plan is almost certain to increase the rate of uninsured in Washington and throughout the nation. Many people literally will be faced with life-and-death choices because of the inequities that make up the Republican proposal.
President Trump and the Republican Party promised better health care for all at a lower cost to consumers. Now they are touting “access” to coverage.
Guaranteeing “access” does not guarantee that people have affordable coverage. It’s just another way of saying that if you don’t have enough money to pay for health coverage, you’re out of luck.
That’s unacceptable. I will not allow our state to move backward. I intend to fight vigorously to maintain the progress we’ve made in Washington state. Sound insurance principles require that we have a system that offers affordable and meaningful health care.
We should be in no rush to turn back the clock on Washington’s progress over the last four years.
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