Speaker of the House Paul Ryan presents the American Healthcare Act. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
The American Healthcare Act (AHCA) is a deeply flawed piece of legislation that threatens to undo the increases in health coverage and benefits that were made available under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare. Both the Congressional Budget Office and internal White House committees have predicted that enacting the bill would end coverage for at least 20 million citizens.
This hardship would fall heaviest on individuals and families who are most financially vulnerable and rely on Medicare for health services. It is unconscionable and fiscally unsound to deprive the poor of medical care and force them to rely on emergency rooms instead of cost-effective preventative treatment.
AHCA promises to remove the “individual mandate” that establishes a tax penalty for individuals who choose not to purchase insurance, but stealthily replaces it with a similar policy. Individuals who go without coverage for 63 days or more are required to pay a 30% increased insurance fee if they ever decide to purchase coverage. This provision increases the profits of insurance companies instead of public funds and promotes the risky behavior of going without coverage until an emergency occurs.
This favored treatment of insurance companies continues in a clause allowing for unlimited tax deductions for executive pay, as long as that compensation is “performance-based”. In effect, executives would be able to enrich themselves while depriving the government of tax income.
The conservative policy of cutting taxes and benefits extends to the capital gains and marginal income taxes that would be eliminated by the AHCA. The average American does not own substantial stock or financial assets and will not benefit from the tax elimination, whereas the government will lose millions of dollars in revenue that could be used to support public aid.
In summary, the AHCA will reduce healthcare coverage for millions of Americans, end expanded Medicare availability by 2020, and subsidize the fortunes of millionaire business executives at the expense of public health.
The underlying “logic” of the general conservative program is to cut public spending under the assumption that unregulated private industries will provide lower-cost and better quality services to the public. In reality, citizens pay less for Medicare coverage than they would for comparable private coverage. The profit motive of private insurance leads to colossal wasted spending on executive pay without any observable benefit in results.
Allowing AHCA to pass would be a dire mistake for 99% of American citizens, and it is a prime example of the short-sighted cuts to public benefits that are also proposed in the Trump budget. Let your legislators know how much you stand to lose from AHCA; an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Editor’s note: This letter to the editor was submitted to The Connector on March 22 before the American Healthcare Act was repealed.