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March 21, 2017 – Earlier this month, Republican leaders in the House of Representatives introduced the American Health Care Act (AHCA) to replace the Affordable Health Care Act (ACA) passed in March 2010.
The ACA, also known as Obamacare, has several key components that protects access to health care for people with pre-existing conditions and/or chronic diseases such as atopic dermatitis.
The AHCA, also proposes protections for people with pre-existing conditions. On paper, these protections are similar to those in Obamacare. However, other elements of the AHCA bill could significantly impact access to doctors and treatments for millions of people with eczema.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), is a federal agency that provides independent economic and budget analysis to Congress. Last week, the CBO determined that the AHCA, with its $337 billion in proposed cuts in health care spending, would cause 14 million people to lose coverage in 2018 alone. For those who get to keep their health insurance, the CBO estimated the costs of premiums to initially rise by 15 to 20 percent.
If you are enrolled in Medicaid, you may see changes to the type of coverage you receive, or you may not be eligible for coverage at all. Due to decreases in federal funding proposed by the AHCA, changes to eligibility requirements, and the elimination of the mandate requiring individuals to have insurance, the CBO projects 14 million people could lose their Medicaid coverage starting this year.
If you receive your health insurance from your employer, you may also be affected by the AHCA. The AHCA proposes to repeal part of the ACA employer mandate, which requires all employers with 50 or more employees to provide health insurance. Under the current plan, employers who do not provide their employees with a minimal level of “qualifying” coverage, are subject to fines. The AHCA leaves the employer requirement intact but eliminates the penalties for not complying.
Before Obamacare was passed, large companies were moving away from providing health insurance, particularly for lower-wage workers. If the penalty for providing employee insurance is removed per the AHCA, certain employers will most likely eliminate health benefits for their employees.
Fundamentally, health insurance functions under the idea of “shared risk.” This means that cost of health care services is spread out over the many people participating in the system. This model only works when the majority of people are covered: the young, the old, the sick, the healthy and everyone in between.
The AHCA allows insurers to charge certain groups of people up to five times the amount (as compared to three times under ACA) they charge other groups. Therefore individuals with chronic conditions, such as eczema, will have to buy higher-cost plans to get access to the care they need to manage their disease. Younger people will pay considerably less (up to five times less) or opt-out of coverage all together. This will drive up costs for those who remain in these high-risk insurance pools.
For those who receive their insurance through the ACA health insurance exchanges, the new GOP plan will eliminate sliding-scale federal subsidies to individuals. These subsidies, which were first implemented by the ACA, offset the cost of health insurance acquired through the exchanges. Instead of subsidies, the AHCA will offer Americans a tax credit based on age. A tax credit requires individuals to pay up front for all health insurance costs – a considerable burden for many middle- and working-class families.
In order for it to be passed into law, the AHCA must be voted on by both the House of Representatives and the Senate before heading to the president to be signed. On Thursday, March 23, the bill will be debated by members of the House.
We need you to tell your representatives that you want affordable and comprehensive access to health care. Tell your representative to oppose the American Healthcare Act!
Register as a NEA Grassroots Advocate to receive regular updates on what is going on with AHCA and other bills that matter to eczema patients, and ways to make your voice heard.