Washington families have a lot to lose if the Trump administration succeeds in killing the Affordable Care Act.
THANKS to the Affordable Care Act, only 3 percent of Washington’s children are without health insurance. According to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Washington state also has harnessed health care reform and federal dollars to narrow insurance coverage gaps between children of different races and ethnicities.
But those gains are jeopardized by proposed cuts in the Trump administration’s budget and plans in Congress to replace the ACA with a new health insurance law.
Instead of helping make health insurance more affordable for families, President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans want to help the wealthy pay lower taxes.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s health-care working group is busy negotiating an overhaul of the ACA behind closed doors without benefit of public hearings or debate, causing even greater uncertainty in the Washington state insurance market and elsewhere across the nation.
Democrats like U.S. Sen. Patty Murray fear the Senate’s secret bill could strip away health insurance from millions of Americans.
“President Trump has spent his first months in office repeatedly undermining health care with no regard to what it means to families in Washington state or anywhere else in the country,” said Murray, ranking member of the Senate health committee. Murray is co-sponsoring a bill to require at least one committee hearing for fast-tracked bills like the new health-care proposal.
Two insurance companies already announced they are dropping out of the Washington individual insurance market in 2018 — Community Health Plan of Washington and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington Options, Inc. Other divisions of Kaiser are staying in the market. And no insurance companies have filed plans to sell individual health insurance to people who live in Klickitat and Grays Harbor counties.
Murray has written to the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services requesting an investigation into how the Trump administration is undermining insurance markets by threatening to end payments to insurers to subsidize the health care of low-income Americans.
Murray and her colleague, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, say the Trump administration is actively working to undermine the Affordable Care Act, “either deliberately or through stunning incompetence.”
The sad truth is likely a combination of the two.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says the House Republican proposal for a new American Health Care Act would decrease federal deficits by $337 billion by 2026, mostly from cutting federal dollars that now cover insurance for the poor. The budget office estimated 14 million more people would be uninsured in 2018, ramping up to 24 million losing their health insurance by 2026.
Washington state and the nation don’t need a new national health insurance law. The public — especially the poor and the middle class — need real improvements to the existing law.
Congress should focus on lowering insurance costs, making the marketplace more welcoming to insurance companies and helping more people get insurance coverage.
Information in this article, originally published June 13, 2017, was corrected June 14, 2017. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, represented Wisconsin.