Healthcare Cost Versus Access is Front and Center Again with GOP Plan

Following the awaited nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) assessment of the Republican healthcare plan, Speaker Paul Ryan was eager to show his excitement. Not long after, Rep. Kevin Cramer shared Ryan’s enthusiasm though he has yet to make a statement of his own. Apparently, it was easy for them to get passed the sticker shock of 14 million more Americans losing their insurance next year and 24 million more Americans losing their coverage within the next ten years because some premiums will dip down. Not all of them.

According to the same CBO report they hold up with pride, the reason some premiums will drop in 2020 is because older Americans on low incomes won’t be able to afford their health insurance anymore. Thus the older, often more ill, Americans that tend to drive up the cost of care will no longer be a burden on the market. That’s right, the very population who utilizes healthcare more because they need it won’t be able to afford to participate.

Estimates say senior citizens who make under $30,000 a year will spend almost half of their income on health insurance under the GOP plan. It isn’t tough to imagine the negative impact this will have on their checkbook. This is where Medicaid would normally come in handy as a safety net for low-income families who have depleted their assets. Unfortunately, under this same GOP plan, Medicaid would be devastated. To put it another way, these older Americans with little income will not be able to afford their own insurance, and depending on how their state handles Medicaid with the dramatic reduction of federal funds there won’t be a safety net for them either. This example is why when people say these healthcare policy debates are a matter of life and death it isn’t just hyperbole.

Of course, Cramer was going to cling on to the spin of the report anyway he could. He already voted in favor of the bill to rush it out of his committee before even understanding the real impacts on his constituents. Hell, he and his colleague Rep. Burgess were the “architects” of the bill. Rest easy, the committee spent a grueling 27 hours on the bill. That is almost an hour per million people kicked off of health insurance in ten years under their plan according to White House estimates.

Don’t get me wrong, we need to find a way to contain healthcare costs. But it should be cost savings everyone enjoys. We cannot pursue that goal at the expense of kicking the old, sick, and poor out of access. This is exactly what the current GOP plan proposes to do. I’ve said previously, I don’t believe these politicians understand the plight of the working poor and in this case, low-income older Americans.  But after all, if they don’t force through some healthcare plan it would be a political “blood bath” in 2018 according to Ryan. Those 14 million Americans who will lose their coverage that same year are a mere inconvenience for their political hopes I suppose.

It has become clear yet again where the divide rests in the healthcare debate. The question appears to be, do you believe everyone should have access to life-saving care regardless of income or do you believe access should come as a luxury attained through earnings? The fact this is the premise of which our healthcare policy debate circles is incomprehensible to me, but it is the reality of our healthcare debate in America.

Tyler Axness
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