Editor’s Note: Robert Weiner, a member of The PuLSE Institute National Advisory Panel, was a Clinton and Bush White House spokesman, spokesman for the House Government Operations Committee and senior staff for Congressmen John Conyers, Charles Rangel, Claude Pepper, Ed Koch and Sen. Edward Kennedy. Zachary Filtz is a Policy Analyst for Robert Weiner Associates and Solutions for Change. For submission inquiries contact the Institute’s editor-in-chief Bankole Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Robert Weiner and Zachary Filtz
Warning: Under the radar of the headlines for Rep. Elijah Cummings’ (D-Maryland) Oversight Committee investigations into potentially impeachable offenses of President Donald Trump, Cummings and his committee have been holding equally significant hearings on a pending health care calamity against all those who can least afford it. A Texas court case, endorsed by President Trump and his White House, is headed for the Supreme Court and would invalidate the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), with no replacement of the law’s benefits. The Trump action would reverse President Obama’s signature achievement.
The case, Texas v. United States, would take away insurance from 30 million new people currently enrolled on the exchange and 100 million people with pre-existing conditions, 2 million young people on their parents’ policies through age 26, and reduced drug prices for 44 million seniors.
Michigan will especially be hurt by losing the ACA. Approximately 274,000 Michigan residents currently have private insurance through the ACA health exchange, according to federal data as mentioned in MLive.com. Eighty-four percent of those Michigan policyholders qualified for tax credits that subsidized the cost, 2019 data shows. For 2019, the average Michigan subsidy is $388 a month. This calculates to $4,656 for the year. The average monthly premium after the subsidy is $125, or $1,500 for the year, according to MLive.com citation of federal data.
In just three years from 2014 to 2017, the ACA cut the Michigan uninsured rate in half, from 11 percent to 5.2 percent, respectively. Up to 8.9 million young Michigan citizens aged 19 to 26 would lose any access to their parents’ insurance plans if the ACA were lifted; they also would not even be able to purchase a plan on their own even if they desired to.
Poverty in Michigan has fallen since the signing of the ACA. In 2010, the state’s poverty rate was 16.8 percent. In 2017, that rate was only 14.2 percent.
The Trump administration has done nothing to expand those currently on the ACA exchange. In fact, Trump has taken executive action to hurt the ACA. Since the current president has taken office, the number of people nationally without insurance has actually increased. The Washington Post cites data from the U.S. Census Bureau that 27.5 million people are currently without insurance, which is an increase from the previous year. The Trump administration also chooses not to advertise the Health Insurance Marketplace, even though they should because healthcare is a human right.
President Trump has said that his administration would not take away insurance for pre-existing conditions. However, the ruling, Texas v. United States, aims to do just that. It offers no plan for any type of replacement for those who would lose coverage. The reason: If he were to “replace” Obamacare, it would look just like Obamacare — it would BE Obamacare. When Republican Congressional Chairman Greg Walden was asked at the National Press Club what the administration would do for pre-existing condition coverage, he agreed with ACA’s most well-known provisions: coverage of millions of new recipients, pre-existing conditions, children through age 26, and other good provisions. Doesn’t that sound exactly like the ACA?
In Cummings’ state, 154,000 Maryland citizens are enrolled in ACA coverage, according to the Maryland Health Connection. Uninsured Maryland residents decreased by 38.8 percent between 2013 and 2016. All would see their health benefits destroyed or shrunk.
U.S. Health and Human Services cites 6 million people nationally 19 to 25 who gained insurance through 2016 through the exchange, and another 2.3 million joined their family’s plan, 2016 data shows. This would also significantly increase prescription drug prices, especially for the 44 million seniors currently on Medicare. Prior to the passing of the law in 2010, the age cutoff for young people was 19. That is barely one year out of high school. The ACA added seven more years of coverage to young adults under parents’ coverage.
“Taking millions of people off of the ACA has catastrophic implications for our country,” Cummings said in a July hearing. “There is something wrong with this picture.”
Republicans from Congress and then-candidate Donald Trump repeated a simple mantra known as “repeal and replace.” There never was a “replace” other than a Senate bill for “skinny repeal” — provide almost no benefits — when Sen. John McCain famously made the deciding vote with his “thumbs down.”
There is more work that needs to be done. The online medical journal The ASCO Post found that after the ACA became law in 2010, women with ovarian cancer were more likely to be diagnosed at earlier stages and to be treated within 30 days than in previous years. The ACA has also mandated that breast cancer screenings are completely covered for anyone covered by ACA or by private insurance not on the ACA exchange. The words speak for themselves. Lawmakers cannot pull millions of people off of ACA healthcare coverage and not replace it.
Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Illinois), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Brain Trust, heard testimony from Frederick Isasi, the Executive Director of Families USA. “States that do not expand Medicaid see more hospitals close,” Isasi said to Kelly.
2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls aim to improve healthcare. Former Vice President Joe Biden believes strongly in “improving and building on the Affordable Care Act.” Biden also believes in a “public health insurance option” open to all. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) both are pushing for “Medicare for All,” though there is substantial resistance to dropping the choice of the private health insurance model.
Trump’s executive harm done to the ACA already should not take place just because a party different than Trump’s party made the law. The ACA should be expanded and strengthened for generations to come. Texas v. United States shows that healthcare cannot be trusted to radical, poorly-reasoned politically motivated opponents. Republicans as well as Democrats get sick and can go bankrupt as a result–it’s a nonpartisan fact of life.