Health insurance premiums for a single, moderate-income, 64-year-old La Crosse resident could balloon nearly $13,000 under the Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, according to Citizen Action of Wisconsin.
The net premiums for such a person, making $26,500 and too young for Medicare, would leap from $1,519 now to $14,515 a year under the GOP’s American Health Care Act, according to the Milwaukee-based, left-leaning organization.
Today, the U.S. House Rules Committee is scheduled to consider Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s bill, which President Donald Trump backs so forcefully that he has threatened the jobs of legislators who don’t vote for it.
Seven-year anniversary of Obamacare
The full House is set to vote on the measure Thursday, which is the seven-year anniversary of President Barack Obama’s signing the Affordable Care Act.
Under Obamacare, the premium for that 64-year-old La Crosse resident is $12,343, although the actual consumer cost plunges to $1,519 with the ACA’s tax credit of $10,824, according to Citizen Action figures.
Under the AHCA, also known variously as TrumpCare, RyanCare and TrumpRyanCare, the premium for the same La Crosse resident would be $18,515, with the new legislation’s $4,000 credit putting the final consumer cost at $14,515 — an increase of 855 percent, Citizen Action representatives said during a statewide media call Tuesday.
Citizen Action unveiled figures for several metro areas across the Badger State under the Ryan/Trump plan, which would provide a flat tax credit of $4,000 instead of one that also factors in the premium cost. For example, the out-of-pocket expense for a 64-year-old under similar conditions in Madison would be $7,764 — a 313 percent increase — under the repeal/replace plan.
Citizen Action Executive Director Robert Kraig decried the AHCA, saying, “It is clear from the shocking numbers in this report that this is a bait-and-switch and that the authors of the House Republican replacement plan have no intention of offering affordable health coverage to older adults who need it most.”
Trump trashed Obamacare during the presidential campaign and guaranteed that he would devise a plan that would provide better, cheaper health care for everyone. The Congressional Budget Office issued a report last week disputing those assertions, including a projection that 24 million people nationwide would lose insurance coverage by 2025.
Dueling figures abound over the numbers who will lose coverage under Ryancare, with the head of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services saying Tuesday that an actual headcount is elusive.
“I don’t think anybody knows at this point how many would gain or lose coverage” in Wisconsin, Linda Seemeyer said in response to a question Tuesday during a forum that Wisconsin Health News sponsored in Madison.
Coincidentally, while vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin infamously coined the erroneous “death panels” phrase in the 2009 presidential campaign, the liberal side of the aisle has resurrected it to insist that the GOP plan will result in death panels by default among people who cannot afford insurance.
People will suffer, die, UW Health official says
The Republican plan would “result in people suffering and dying prematurely,” said Dr. Cynthia Haq, a family medicine and population health sciences professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.
“People will have to forgo health insurance coverage,” Haq said during the Citizen Action teleconference. “They will not seek care. They will not get preventive services.”
Kraig underscored that assessment, saying, “Asking low income older adults to pay over $10,000 more each year for health coverage is a prescription for disaster which will leave people across Wisconsin with no choice but to go without insurance.”
As a result, such patients “will not be able to manage their chronic diseases (and) … they’ll show up in the emergency departments of hospitals in extreme crisis,” Haq said.
The Citizen Action figures, which echoed stats from the Center for American Progress last week, were completed before Ryan announced several tweaks to his proposal late Monday night. Ryan had gone back to the actuarial tables and coverage considerations after withering criticism from conservatives and moderates in his own party imperiled passage.
The bill needs 216 votes for House passage. With Democrats expected to vote en masse against it, the plan would die with just 22 GOP no votes. If it advances, it is expected to encounter staunch opposition in the Senate, even among the chamber-controlling Republicans.
Tax credits under Obamacare are based on income and insurance costs, which vary across the nation. The credits provide the most benefits to older, low-income people who live in high-premiums areas.
The AHCA calls for tax credits to be based primarily on age, with a 64-year-old receiving twice as much assistance as a 21-year-old. However, the bill would let insurers charge older adults up to five times more than younger adults, compared with Obamacare’s tripled charge.
Amendments to the Republican plan, introduced late Monday, tweak financial assistance, among other elements. The adjustments are in accord with Ryan’s acknowledgement of colleagues’ complaints that it is as flawed, or more so, than the Obamacare he characterizes as being in a “death spiral.”
“We think that we should be offering even more assistance than what the bill currently does,” Ryan said.
Work requirement to get Medicaid
Under the adjustments, elderly people might receive more money to cope with inflation.
Other changes include allowing states to opt for Medicaid block grants instead of open-ended funding, as well as requirements that people work in return for receiving Medicaid.
They also would block any other states from opting into the Medicaid expansion, which is one of Obamacare’s cornerstones and one that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker rejected.
Wisconsin DHS head Seemeyer voiced opposition to block grants for Medicaid funding, insisting that that tack is vulnerable to economic changes.
Seemeyer also suggested that the state might push back over its treatment under the proposal, adding, “Wisconsin ought to be rewarded for some of the work we’ve done.”