‘Repeal and Replace’ fails; now Obamacare needs fixing part 1

Published 7:00 am Friday, April 14, 2017

By Trudy Liberman

The failure of the Republican-led effort to repeal and replace Obamacare represents a big victory for all kinds of citizens and interest groups that analyzed the proposed legislation and said no dice. 

The day before House Speaker Paul Ryan decided not to take a vote on the American Health Care Act, a Quinnipiac Poll found that only 17 percent of American voters approved of the GOP’s legislation while 56 percent did not.

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You can hardly call that a vote of support for what the bill was trying to do. Too many people would be hurt, and the public along with editorial writers in newspapers across the country, got that message: The GOP plan would cause real pain. Members of Congress heard it loud and clear, and many responded to what they heard.

Older Americans would have had to pay more, sometimes thousands of dollars more to get health insurance. In 32 states, millions of Americans with incomes slightly above the poverty line who had gained coverage under their state’s Medicaid expansion program would have lost their coverage.

Others already on Medicaid or joining in the future would also have been affected. The proposal called for cutting back the federal government’s commitment to fund healthcare for the poor by changing the way it would pay for its share of program. 

That would have left the states, which jointly fund Medicaid, strapped for funds to cover everyone needing medical treatment as well as middle class families who required help paying for long-term care. Medicaid pays for about half of all nursing home stays.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, had mandated that every insurance policy sold in the individual market where people without employer or government coverage must shop had to include 10 essential benefits.  Under the Republicans’ plan, that mandate – that all plans include things like prescription drug coverage, emergency room services, maternity care and mental health treatment – would have disappeared.

Dropping any of the essential benefits would have helped some insurance companies whose individual policies provided only bare bones coverage until 2010 when the ACA required essential benefits to be included. Insurers would have been able to sell skimpy and cheaper coverage to those willing to gamble.

Now, even though the “repeal and replace,” effort failed, we are left with a health law that needs repairs of its own.