People here know that I had no great love of the Obamacare/ACA solution to the problem that we’re the only wealthy industrialized country without universal health coverage. And (as I predicted here), Obamacare/ACA was going to be extremely unpopular with voters. Hillary Clinton (mistakenly) ran on Obamacare as a boon to people, but unless you were one of the millions of people who had previously been shut out of buying healthcare through pre-existing conditions, you weren’t a big fan. And let’s face it–insurance companies made the transition to the ACA as ugly as possible. We were on my DW’s coverage, and suddenly there were huge deductibles on our coverage. Worse, every bill we got for ‘covered’ services meant we had to fight with our insurer. This was hardly my sole experience–friends found that insurance companies were trolling them, sending them bills that the insurance co. was actually required to pay in the hope that we would tire of fighting with their reps and pick up the bills ourselves. In any other industry, sending spurious bills would end up with companies getting fined or sanctioned. Not in the medical insurance area, where companies have gotten away with such shenanigans for decades.
Sadly, House Speaker and Ayn Rand acolyte Paul Ryan never met a bad program he couldn’t make worse. In an interview on 60 Minutes with Scott Pelley, Trump explained that for poor people”the government’s gonna pay for it(insurance). But we’re going to save so much money on the other side. But for the most it’s going to be a private plan and people are going to be able to go out and negotiate great plans with lots of different competition with lots of competitors with great companies and they can have their doctors, they can have plans, they can have everything.” And Donald Trump, who vowed to replace Obamacare and told Scott Pelley the above with a straight face, amazingly had no plan. Ryan’s first plan, the ‘health savings accounts’, had been floated by W and shot down almost immediately. So Ryan had to clone Obamacare but make it vastly cheaper. And the plan that has resulted (so far) has no support from Dems and very little support from the GOP because it leaves the Government on the hook for making insurance affordable for many poor people.
A recent article in the Motley Fool lays out the changes in Ryan’s proposed American Health Care Act that would drive people above the age of 47 into poverty if they couldn’t get insurance through an employer. Remember that under the ACA, insurers can charge people above age 47 only 3 times what they charge a 20 Something for the same coverage: “Perhaps most important for seniors, the Act proposes changing the permissible age variation in health insurance rates from the 3:1 ratio allowable under the ACA to a 5:1 ratio. If this provision passes, then insurance companies would be able to charge the oldest adult insurance buyers up to five times more than the youngest adults in the same area… Before the AHCA was introduced, AARP’s Public Policy Institute commissioned a study to assess the impact of changing the 3:1 limit to the 5:1 limit that the AHCA mandates. Milliman, the independent actuarial firm performing the study, found that adults aged 60 and older would experience a dramatic increase in premiums…How dramatic? The average premium increase would be $3,200. This would bring average annual premiums up to $17,900 for someone aged 60 or older who purchases health insurance on the individual market“. (boldface added by me).
And guess what–there are no assurances that people will be able to get insurance through their employer. The proposed replacement for the ACA does away with the employer mandate. A senior-but-not-yet-eligible-for-Medicare person working for McDonalds isn’t going to get healthcare through his employer, but the premium for insurance will wipe out at least half of his income. Perhaps more than that, since payments for insurance won’t be deductible on income taxes. All those “Fight For $15” folks are about to take a big kick to the prairie oysters, because (after insurance) the 50-something workers will be bringing home what they brought home before healthcare ‘reform’.
It’s hard to see the GOP walking away from an Obamacare repeal. It’s even harder to see them passing anything that would let me or my friends keep their homes while paying for insurance. With the GOP controlling virtually everything in DC right now, the possibility is that the Repubs will come to an impasse on the American Health Care Act and just cancel out Obamacare without replacing it with anything. And remember, the GOP is also coming after Medicare and Medicaid.
So what do we do?
Apparently, there’s been a Democratic bill for Medicare for All that has been reintroduced in Congress every year since 2003. John Conyers of Michigan has been reintroducing this bill every year. From their press release: “Today, Representative John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) reintroduced H.R. 676, “The Expanded And Improved Medicare For All Act.” This bill would establish a privately-delivered, publicly-financed universal health care system, where physicians and non-profit health care providers would be in charge of medical decisions — not insurance companies.”The last time it was proposed, Conyers had 49 sponsors, even accounting for the fact that HR 676 is a shot across the bow of Obama’s ACA.
And Conyers is not alone on this– Bernie Sanders wanted a Medicare For All program. It was nearly enough to get him the nomination (though there were other reasons for his loss). In any case, the D’s have a plan. It covers everybody. It would save lots of people from bills that would bankrupt them.
I’ve put a petition on Change dot Org. Sign it. Pass it on. Tell your friends. Will it pass? Probably not, but what do we have to lose?
UPDATE: there’s information on the topic on the PNHP website. Here’s the info about them:
Physicians for a National Health Program is a non-profit research and education organization of 20,000 physicians, medical students and health professionals who support single-payer national health insurance.