From the category archives: healthcare
There’s a great piece in the current Money magazine by Elizabeth O’Brien about the impact of ACA repeal on seniors. The title alone makes it worth the read: “Think Changes to Obamacare Won’t Affect You? Think Again.” In this article, O’Brien lays bare the consequences of ACA repeal to seniors, who, as the title implies, may not be aware of the repercussions for Medicare.
"The Affordable Care Act contains about 165 provisions affecting Medicare, according to Medicare's trustees. These range from improving benefits for the 57 million current beneficiaries to shoring up the program’s long-term finances for future ones.”
These provisions include free wellness visits and preventative screenings for cancer, diabetes, heart disease and a host of other medical conditions – with no out of pocket costs – all of which could disappear if the ACA is repealed. Likewise with the prescription drug “donut hole,” which the ACA was closing, saving the average beneficiary $1,000 a year. As O’Brien notes, before Obamacare came along:
"More than three million beneficiaries hit the donut hole before the law took effect, and some [seniors] were forced to skip doses, split pills, or not fill their prescriptions at all due to high costs.”
Who wants to go back to seniors splitting pills or going without their medicines?
O’Brien also points out that because of the savings the ACA provided to Medicare, repealing the healthcare law will cost Medicare $802 billion between now and 2025. There’s also a strong refutation of the argument by House Speaker Paul Ryan and HHS Nominee Tom Price that Medicare is “going broke,” which they will use as a canard to cut benefits.
Most tellingly, the Republicans are gunning for tax provisions that help pay for the ACA which mainly affect the upper middle class and the wealthy. O’Brien quotes Matthew Yglesias of Vox:
"Republicans’ desire to eliminate these taxes is a big driver of their push to repeal Obamacare. Subsidizing the health care costs of working-class people is expensive, and while Democrats want rich people to pay the freight for doing it, Republicans do not."
The bottom line: seniors and millions of newly insured Americans will pay more for healthcare – or go without it entirely – so that high earners can get a tax break.
Speaker Paul Ryan and the House GOP are on a tear to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), without being any closer to agreement on a replacement plan. The House will likely introduce a budget reconciliation bill to effectively repeal the ACA in the next two weeks… with no immediate replacement. Ryan and his troops hope to have a replacement plan by April, but Max Richtman, the President of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare is skeptical:
"Given the potential political risk of displacing 20 million Americans who now have health coverage through the ACA, the legislative battle will probably take longer than they think."
Republicans meeting in Philadelphia this week to strategize about replacements for the Affordable Care Act were unable to come to a consensus. The disarray in the GOP caucus made for an alarming headline in this morning’s Los Angeles Times: Republicans divided over whether millions of Americans should lose government-subsidized health coverage.
In the meantime, if Congress repeals the ACA soon but blows past April struggling to replace it, says Richtman, that could destabilize the health insurance market and endanger ACA policyholders’ coverage.
"If key parts of the ACA are repealed now, and insurance companies think the situation is too unpredictable, you have an immediate de facto loss of coverage for more than 20 million Americans."
The nearly 60 million seniors and disabled on Medicare are also at risk of losing benefits that the ACA mandated, including annual wellness visits and preventative screenings with no out of pocket costs, and will have to pay an average $1,000 per year more for prescription drugs unless those parts of Obamacare are retained. Of course, at this point no one knows which of the ACA’s benefits will stay or be shredded, including House Republicans.
In a related development, the Washington Post reports the White House is pulling ads for ACA enrollments in advance of the 2017 enrollment deadline.
Max Richtman, President and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, joined other advocates, politicians, and everyday Americans at a Day of Action rally in Richmond, Virginia Sunday. The Day of Action was an opportunity for people across the country to stand up for the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, and Medicaid. The Richmond rally – attended by Richtman, Senator Tim Kaine, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), and Governor Terry McAulife – was one of more than 40 protests nationwide.
Some one thousand people gathered on the grounds of the Virginia State Capitol to make their voices heard. Max Richtman rallied the crowd early on with a reminder of the struggle to defend Social Security in 2005. “We had a president (George W. Bush) whose top agenda item was to privatize Social Security. Even with a GOP House and Senate, we were able to kill it. Not a single bill reached the floor. And that’s what we can do today. We can defeat any changes to the ACA which will endanger Medicare.”
Ricthman reminded the crowd in stark terms exactly what is at stake if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, “despite a lot of the myths that citizens have heard in the past few years.” Medicare beneficiaries, in particular, would lose the valuable improvements that the ACA provided. “Here is the truth,” Richtman said from the podium, “For the first time ever, Medicare beneficiaries were able to get annual wellness exams with no out of pocket costs under the ACA. For the first time ever, they could get preventative screenings with no out of pocket costs, including mammograms, colon cancer screenings, and diabetes screenings. All of that will disappear if the ACA is repealed.” He warned that the Part D Prescription Drug “donut hole” – which the ACA was rapidly closing – would return with repeal, costing the average beneficiary more than $1000 a year.
As the Washington Post reports, the Day of Action was the brainchild of Senator Bernie Sanders and other democratic leaders in Congress. At rallies across the country, crowds heard poignant testimonials from Americans who benefitted from the Affordable Care Act. Kate Barrett of Richmond worried that her daughter suffering from incurable cancer could be denied coverage or won’t be able to afford treatment if the ACA is repealed. 73-year old Scott Gledhill said he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer two months after signing up for Medicare. “My bill would have been half a million dollars. I would have lost everything I had, after a whole lifetime of work and saving.”
Day of Action organizers want Republicans in Congress to feel public pressure against ACA repeal, and urged attendees to contact their elected representatives right away. “Don’t agonize. Organize!” was the rallying cry of the day, said Richtman. “As we've learned from our past battles,” he explained, “Once politicians feel the heat, they begin to see the light.”
At a family gathering over the holidays in Florida, the conversation inevitably turned to politics. Some of the seniors at the table who voted for Trump expressed their certainty that no one in Washington will really touch their earned benefits. “Trump’s not going to let the Congress cut Social Security,” said a Great Aunt in her 70s. “Paul Ryan’s not really going to mess with Medicare,” insisted her husband. Of course, these beloved family members could not be more wrong.
Their complacency (or, in this case, complicity) sets up a dangerous opportunity for the GOP-controlled 115th Congress, which was just sworn in yesterday. Claiming a mandate that most certainly does not exist, Congressional Republicans are rolling out proposals that will destroy Social Security and Medicare as we know them, not to mention deep cuts to Medicaid and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. These actions will hurt not only the seniors at the holiday table, but their children and grandchildren, too. As we have been warning for years, all Americans have a lot to lose if these programs are compromised by capricious politicians.
President-Elect Trump shows no signs of honoring his campaign pledge not to touch Social and Medicare. He has been strangely silent about Congressional proposals that will wreck these two programs, and his appointments to crucial administration positions speak volumes – most notably Rep. Tom Price (a notorious privatization proponent) as Health and Human Services Secretary and Rep. Rick Mulvaney (a fiscal hardliner) as director of the Office of Management and Budget --- a likely ally for Congressional Republicans looking to cut entitlements.
A quick survey of GOP proposals shows just how much current and future beneficiaries of these crucial income security programs have to lose. House Social Security Subcommittee Chair Sam Johnson (R-TX) has introduced a so-called Social Security “reform” bill that will result in benefit cuts, raise the retirement age to 69, and reduce Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs) that seniors on fixed incomes rely on. House Speaker Paul Ryan, who Tuesday gaveled the 115th Congress into session, has long promised to privatize Medicare, turning it into a voucher (or “Coupon Care”) program that would leave future beneficiaries to fend for themselves in the private insurance market while traditional Medicare slowly dies. This will mean skyrocketing premiums and reduced coverage for seniors thrust into the private insurance market.
The 115th Congress just took the first procedural steps to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which not only jeopardizes health care coverage for 30 million Americans, but puts real improvements to Medicare at great risk. If the Affordable Care Act is recklessly repealed, seniors will lose free preventative screenings under Medicare. The Part D prescription drug “donut hole” will open up again, costing more than 11 million Medicare beneficiaries $2,100 per person on prescriptions. Worse yet, Medicare beneficiaries will face higher premiums and deductibles to make up for the roughly $800 billion in cost savings that the ACA provided over 10 years. Insurers will once again be able to overcharge or deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.
Combine this with GOP plans to block-grant Medicaid, which millions of seniors depend on for nursing home care and long term care services, and Americans are confronting a full-fledged assault on their earned benefits and income security. As the 115th Congress convened yesterday, Democrats promised vigilance. Incoming Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer declared from the Senate floor, “We demand that (Trump) keep his promise not to cut Social Security and Medicare… We will hold the President-elect accountable.” On GOP efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, Schumer warned, “It is not acceptable to repeal the law, throw our health care system into chaos” and leave the solution for another day. Senator Bernie Sanders has called for a national Day of Action on January 15th “to oppose any cuts to health-care plans or subsidies,” including rallies in Congressional districts across the country.
We stand with our allies on Capitol Hill, our fellow advocacy groups, and our millions of members to protect Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act. We see the danger quite clearly… and hope that the seniors and their families who sat around holiday tables the past two weeks will, too.
While we at the National Committee extend warm holiday wishes to all our readers, the joy of the season is overshadowed by the knowledge that the coming year is full of unprecedented peril for our cherished income security programs – and our health care.
Throughout the year, we warned about the dangerous positions Trump and the GOP had taken on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act. As early as March, we exposed Trump’s past statements in favor of raising the retirement age to 70 and privatization. At the same time, we warned about renewed GOP plans to slash Medicare benefits. In June, we predicted that Speaker Ryan and Donald Trump would eventually join forces to privatize Medicare. After Donald Trump locked up the nomination, we flagged the dangers to Social Security in the Republican platform. When Trump picked his running mate, we shined a harsh light on Mike Pence’s long history attacking Social Security and Medicare. After the election, the National Committee began pushing back against the GOP’s race to dismantle our income security programs, beginning with a benefit-slashing bill by House Social Security Subcommittee Chair Sam Johnson, and Trump’s naming a notorious privatizer for Health and Human Services Secretary.
Make no mistake about it, the GOP-led 115th Congress will waste no time implementing their plans to destroy Medicare and Social Security as we know it – and repeal the Affordable Care Act. President-elect Trump has offered no assurance that he will stand by his campaign promise not to touch Social Security and Medicare, and as we reported, his past statements on both programs are not comforting. Pending legislation on Capitol Hill could cut Social Security benefits by 1/3, raise the retirement age, and decrease COLAs. If Paul Ryan gets his way, Medicare will be turned into “Coupon Care” and seniors will be given vouchers to fend for themselves in the private insurance market. Thirty million Americans could lose health insurance (including a disproportionate number in areas that Trump won in November) if the Affordable Care Act is repealed (not to mention the lost improvements to Medicare included in the ACA). Americans who depend on any of these programs could sink into poverty.
Working Americans, the disabled, seniors, and their families should know what’s at stake – and they must participate in the movement to stop Republicans from snatching away their earned benefits and health care. The National Committee will vigorously lobby members of Congress, gather millions of petition signatures, and encourage working Americans to contact their elected representatives about these critical issues. We will partner with our allies to promote an agenda that protects – and boosts – our earned benefits instead of slashing them. So, by all means enjoy the holidays and ring in a peaceful New Year. Then… let’s shift gears into battle mode and stop the war on the working class together.
Have a Social Security or Medicare question?