While repealing the Affordable Care Act, the GOP has sought to come up with an official replacement that they promised to be more feasible for all Americans. President Donald Trump even mentioned repeatedly that he would make the replacement plan cover everyone.
However, the GOP’s new plan, the American Health Care Act, mostly benefits the wealthiest people in the United States, while hurting vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, poor and mentally ill.
According to the Tax Policy Center, repealing the ACA provides a $33,000 tax cut for the top one percent of earners and a $197,000 tax cut for the top 0.1 percent. In contrast, under the GOP’s new plan, those between the age of 55 to 64 will have increased health care bills by $6,971 in 2020. Those who fall below 250 percent of the poverty level will pay $4,061 more than before.
What’s going to happen if people cannot afford those bills for the next four years? Although it will trim the federal deficit, this new bill would increase the number of uninsured people by 24 million within a decade.
Under the new bill, having health insurance may no longer be required. However, people who disenroll from coverage for 63 days or more and then re-enroll are subjected to a 30 percent late enrollment surcharge.
In addition, the plan eliminates the Medicaid expansion that occurred under the ACA and limits Medicaid growth beginning in 2020. The bill also eventually ends ACA subsidies that helped low- and middle-income people pay for insurance.
To compensate, it implements an age-based flat tax credit starting in 2020, but these credits will not be enough to purchase insurance plans. The most any individual can get back in tax credit is $4,000, and the most any family can get back is $14,000. For many, it will likely be less.
Although the elderly will receive greater tax cuts, the plan also allows companies to charge higher premiums for older people. These tax credits present a particular problem for poorer people living in the rural south.
"If you talk about putting someone on a credit of $4,000 a year, you're going to see a huge amount of disenrollment,” said Andrew Hetzler with the American Exchange, a Chattanooga health insurance company. “You're looking at plans being completely unaffordable for low-income people—they're going to be right back where they were in 2013.
The only people who qualify for this credit are non-incarcerated U.S. citizens and legal immigrants. It’s still unclear whether ex-convicts can receive tax credits when released. Former inmates, who were covered by Medicaid under the ACA, are some of the sickest and most vulnerable people in our nation.
The new bill is also getting rid of the opportunity for those in the process of becoming a citizen to receive health care. The process to gain citizenship can last for several years. What’s going to happen to the families of immigrants if they are delayed in receiving health care for this long?
The American Health Care Act also repeals the Prevention and Public Health Fund. In Georgia, intervention programs to reduce smoking, obesity and infectious diseases will no longer be financially supported. Companies are also no longer required to cover mental health services, which is a prevalent issue, especially in Athens-Clarke County.
Overall, the American Health Care Act does not benefit anyone but those who are in the richest three percentof the income level. The GOP have always complained about achieving socioeconomic equality—but for successful or vulnerable populations?