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Republicans get started on dismantling the Affordable Care Act, Roe says replacement is better

Becky Campbell • Updated Mar 9, 2017 at 11:10 AM

While Republican leaders proudly talked this week about repealing portions of the Affordable Care Act with their own form of health insurance legislation, many opponents said it’s nothing more than rationing healthcare.

“What all this amounts to is fewer people being covered and fewer benefits being provided,” said Tony Garr, former director of the Tennessee Healthcare Campaign, who is now a volunteer at the non-profit consumer health care advocacy group. 

“Currently 1.54 million Tennesseans —  kids, the poor and the elderly — are on TennCare,” he said. “They’re going to be OK this year, next year and the next year, but by 2020 they will have less coverage and fewer benefits.”

In a Republican leadership press conference Wednesday, legislators — including Rep. Phil Roe — praised their efforts to kick the ACA to the curb and replace it with the American Health Care Act. Many of the components of President Barrack Obama’s plan will remain in place, including prohibiting care based on pre-existing conditions and allowing children to remain on their parents insurance plans until they turn 26.

“We’re going to keep our word and repeal this flawed law so that we can put patients and doctors back in charge of healthcare decisions,” Roe said. “In my state … almost 160,000 people chose to pay a penalty. In the hospital system where I practiced, which is a large hospital system, … between 60 and 70 percent of the uncollectable debt are people with insurance. That’s not providing care for people. People are delaying care because they can’t pay the outrageous copays and out-of-pockets.”

The bill would cut more than 20 taxes enacted under President Barack Obama’s heath law, saving taxpayers nearly $600 billion over the next decade. The bulk of the money would go to the wealthiest Americans.

Low- and moderate-income families would lose their subsidies to buy health insurance in state and federal marketplaces. The subsidies would be replaced by tax credits to help them buy insurance.

The biggest tax cut would eliminate a 3.8 percent tax on investment income for high-income individuals and families. Eliminating the tax would save these taxpayers $158 billion over the next decade, according the non-partisan Committee on Taxation, the official scorekeeper for Congress.

About 90 percent of the benefit from repealing the tax would go to the top 1 percent of earners, who make $700,000 or more, according to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center.

Another big tax cut would repeal an extra 0.9 percent Medicare tax on wages above $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for married couples. Repealing the tax would save higher income families $117 billion over the next decade.

Other taxes in the ACA that will be repealed in the GOP plan include:

• Health providers pay an annual fee based on market share. Repealing the tax would save health insurers $145 billion over the next decade.

• Prescription drug makers and importers pay an annual fee. Repealing it would save pharmaceutical companies $25 billion over the next decade.

• Taxpayers can deduct out-of-pocket health expenses if they exceed 10 percent of their income. The bill would return the threshold to 7.5 percent of income, which it was before Obamacare. Taxpayers would save $35 billion over the next decade.

• Medical device makers and importers pay a 2.3 percent excise tax. Repealing it would save them $20 billion over the next decade.

“We’re going to repeal the taxes, the onerous taxes in this bill, and I think one of the most exciting things for me is as a physician —  after seeing patients with no care … taking care of patients with no care — for the first time in my life we have and opportunity to provide health insurance coverage for every American. And ladies and gentlemen, that is a noble thing to do,” Roe said during the press conference.

Local Affordable Care Act advocate Ed Wolff said he hasn’t seen the bill, but knowing who created the legislation, “it will benefit the wealthy and it will harm those who need it the most. People in the 50- and 60-year-old (range) will be harmed the most.”

Garr said that while Republicans campaigned last year on repealing the ACA, there was no talk of cutting Medicaid. Now, that is part of the GOP’s version of a healthcare bill.

“It’s rationing care (and) giving tax cuts to the wealthy,” Garr said. “Health savings accounts are fine if you have money to put into it. It doesn’t really help people who are low income. The thing they never talked about on the campaign trail is Medicaid.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan, who also spoke at the press conference with Roe, said he has proposed doubling the amount that people can contribute to an HSA.

Garr said there are plenty of opponents to the revamp as well as cutting Medicaid benefits.

“The American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association have come out against the plan,” Garr said. “I think the only people who want this plan are the Tea party folks … 92 percent of Americans say Medicaid should not be cut.”

The new healthcare plan will provide a “per capita allotment” to states to pay for poor patients care instead of picking up a percentage of those healthcare costs. 

The full text of the healthcare bill amendments is available at www.readthebill.gop and also provides a “frequently asked questions” link to provide additional information.

 

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

 

 

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