The American Health Care Act: Rumor vs. Reality
Is the new American Health Care Act awesome? No. But is it as horrible as everyone is making it sound? Also no. Don’t get me wrong: I’m definitely not a fan of this new bill, but if you don’t support something you should know EXACTLY why you don’t support it — instead of letting your opinion be shaped by reading “fake news,” click-baity headlines, or your politically minded Facebook friend’s ranty status.
Here’s everything you need to know about the American Health Care Act: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Get your facts straight, and then get out there and support or protest to your heart’s content.
The Main Concerns
There have been a lot of concerns about pre-existing conditions in relation to health insurance if this bill passes — what counts as a pre-existing condition, increased premiums due to pre-existing conditions, losing coverage altogether, etc. As a result, the hashtag #IAmAPreexistingCondition started trending shortly after the bill was narrowly passed by the House of Representatives. People on Twitter were using the hashtag to post pictures of themselves or loved ones who had conditions that would be considered “pre-existing” under the new bill, and therefore wouldn’t be eligible for coverage or wouldn’t be able to afford the higher premiums.
However, this is not necessarily true. If you already have insurance coverage (and you should under Obamacare), then your premium shouldn’t change, regardless of any pre-existing conditions you have — and you certainly shouldn’t lose your coverage altogether. This is because typically insurance companies can only jack up prices on new enrollees or anyone who has a gap in their coverage of more than 63 days.
The caveat to this is that the AHCA gives states the opportunity to request waivers that will allow insurance companies to dodge the existing rule (established under Obamacare) that prevents them from increasing premium costs for people with pre-existing conditions — but even with the waiver, they still won’t be able to ban coverage for anyone. However, the regulations surrounding these waivers are not clear yet — and the number of states that might request them is estimated to be very low.
As for what exactly will count as a pre-existing condition, that also remains unclear. Though there have been claims to the contrary, there is no definitive list of things that will be considered “pre-existing conditions” under the AHCA as of yet. But here’s a look at some of the rumors that have been floating around.
- Rape/Sexual Assault
One of the most popular claims about this bill is that it makes rape a pre-existing condition, and therefore sexual assault victims will lose their healthcare if they report it. There are a couple of problems with this logic, however: One, as mentioned above, insurance companies will not be allowed to deny someone coverage based on any “pre-existing condition” (whatever that may include); two, rape is not listed as a pre-existing condition because there is no list of pre-existing conditions yet; and three, even if it was listed as a pre-existing condition, there are laws in place in most states (every single one except Vermont and Idaho) that ban insurers from using domestic abuse as a reason to raise someone’s premium.
There is one major “but” here, though: If you live in one of the states that does apply for one of those waivers that allows them to raise premiums for people with pre-existing conditions, then being sexually assaulted could, in fact, affect your insurance premium — if you seek medical help (mental health services, STD treatments, resulting pregnancies, etc.) after the fact.
One of the major things that Obamacare successfully addressed was the fact that many insurance companies were charging women more for healthcare simply because being a woman has the potential to be more expensive. The AHCA is not lifting the ban that prevents insurance companies from charging women more. However, it is making it a bit easier for insurance companies to skirt around those rules. With Obamacare, insurance companies were required to cover maternity care as one of their “essential services” — with the AHCA, states can once again apply to waive this rule, allowing insurance companies to offer cheaper plans that don’t cover pregnancy and more expensive plans that do.
Additionally, undergoing a C-section could be qualified as a pre-existing condition, which could make you subject to higher premiums if you live in one of the states that waives the protections for pre-existing conditions.
Though Planned Parenthood is not explicitly named in the bill, it’s obvious that defunding this organization was one of the goals of the AHCA. If the bill passes, it would heavily restrict funding to any organization that provides abortions except in the case of rape, incest, or danger to the life of the mother. Despite the fact that none of their federal funding is used to perform abortions, under this new bill Planned Parenthood would be stripped of all Medicaid reimbursements. Because Medicaid accounts for three-quarters of Planned Parenthood’s 40% federal funding each year, this would be a huge hit to an organization that provides millions of women (and men) with a wide array of healthcare services each year — ranging from flu shots to diabetes and cancer screenings to birth control.
Speaking of birth control, it seems to be safe (for now). Co-pay-free birth control is included in the “essential benefits” that must be covered under Obamacare, and those essential benefits aren’t going away under the AHCA — yet. But beginning in 2020, states would be allowed to redefine what is covered under those “essential benefits” for Medicaid recipients — and that could mean free birth control for the low-income population is in danger.
Obamacare’s biggest priority was to increase federal funding to states so that Medicaid coverage could be expanded to more low-income individuals. However, the AHCA will reverse all of the progress that was made in this objective. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the AHCA would mean cuts of $880 billion to Medicaid programs over the next decade — while simultaneously providing tax cuts of almost $600 billion that will primarily benefit Americans who make $200,000 or more per year.
Many claims have been made that this bill is basically a massive wealth transfer to the rich, and looking at the numbers, that’s kind of hard to dispute.
The Bottom Line
Obamacare expanded coverage to include people who struggled to afford it — and the majority of those people are women. Between 2013 and 2015, the uninsured rate of women aged 15 to 44 dropped by 36% under Obamacare.
Though this amended version of the AHCA hasn’t been scored by the Congressional Budget Office yet, the projected numbers for the original bill were pretty grim: 14 million fewer people would have insurance coverage by 2018, and there would be 24 million fewer insured by 2026.
Some of the rumors make it sound worse than it is — but no matter which way you spin it, if the AHCA were to go into effect exactly as it stands today, millions of Americans would suffer the consequences. The biggest thing to consider when analyzing something like this is how it will affect our entire country — not just you, or your age group, or your gender, or your health status; everyone.
BTW, The Bill Hasn’t Passed the Senate Yet
Also just an FYI: The Senate still has to approve this bill before it will ever see the light of day. This is checks and balances in action here, folks. But even though it’s likely that the Senate will draft their own version of the bill (that may look nothing like the one proposed by the House of Representatives), it’s still important to be informed and voice your opinion (by calling your representatives; remember: Facebook statuses accomplish nothing) about certain aspects of the bill that you do or don’t like — that’s the only way the lawmakers know what the people they’re representing want and need. And, of course, having an opinion isn’t worth anything if it’s not an informed one — make sure any claims you’re making or opinions you’ve formed are backed up with verifiable facts and well-articulated reasoning.
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