Renate Pore: House GOP’s health bill bad for just about everyone

Charleston Gazette — 07 May 2017

By Renate Pore

Let me count the ways why the GOP health care bill passed by the House on May 4 is bad for Americans and West Virginians and may ultimately be really bad for Republicans.

The entire health care industry and all consumer advocacy organizations are against it. Doctors, hospitals, insurers all believe the bill is bad for their industry. Together, the health care industry makes up almost one-fifth of the American economy. That is some amount of clout.

Consumer advocacy organizations such as the AARP and West Virginians for Affordable Health Care want all Americans to have quality and affordable health care. This bill will make health care more expensive for older people and is predicted to reduce coverage by 24 million people. Almost 200,000 West Virginians are expected to lose coverage.

West Virginians for Affordable Health Care is on record in calling for control

ling health care costs. This bill does nothing to contain costs. It merely shifts the cost from the federal government to states and individuals. West Virginians for Affordable Health Care wants real control of costs by eliminating unnecessary and duplicative care and reigning in pharmaceutical pricing. The GOP bill is silent on these critical issues.

West Virginia gained a lot from the Affordable Care Act. More than 225,000 West Virginians gained coverage, new federal dollars flowing into the state through Medicaid created jobs and shored up our rural health infrastructure. The GOP bill will create chaos in West Virginia as the numbers of uninsured rise and costs of uncompensated and charity care increases. Rural hospitals may close. Unemployment will increase.

The bill undermines the essential health benefits of the ACA by giving states the option of deciding what has to be covered. The ACA standardized health benefits brought much-needed transparency and consumer protections to health insurance policies. The GOP bill takes us back to the Wild West days of health insurance when the small-print, underwriting, red-lining, life-time limits and other dubious practices regularly surprised consumers with unexpected expenses or no coverage at all. Essential benefits such as maternity care, mental health and substance abuse treatment may no longer be covered. According to the Wall Street Journal, this could impact not just those buying in the individual market but large employers as well.

People with pre-existing conditions will have a harder time getting coverage. Twenty-seven percent of all Americans suffer from conditions such as asthma, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and others. A child born with a birth defect such as autism may never be able to get coverage.

The GOP solution for people with pre-existing conditions are high risk pools where people can buy federally subsidized insurance. High risk pools were around before the Affordable Care Act and never proved themselves to be effective or affordable. The subsidies were never sufficient. In West Virginia, about 1,200 were enrolled in the high risk pool. Compare that to 35,000 covered in the ACA supported Marketplace.

The cuts of $880 billion to Medicaid over 10 years may be the unkindest cut of all. Medicaid that serves the most vulnerable — seniors, people with disabilities and about 60 percent of West Virginia children — will be decimated. West Virginians for Affordable Health Care estimates that West Virginia will lose about $4 billion over 10 years in Medicaid funding. It will hurt children with disabilities by reducing funding to schools that deliver special education services. What brilliant mind would reduce services to young children that might help them grow into good learners and productive adults?

The GOP rushed to pass this bill and crow about their power without waiting for analysis from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. They really don’t want to know what this bill means because they are hoping the Senate will stop it, and it will never be implemented.

Health care should not be used as a political football. Our elected officials need to come together and do what is right for America – a health care system that is rational, efficient and affordable. Or, it may be too much to ask of some of the people we have elected.

The comments by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Alabama) may reveal it all. When asked by a CNN reporter if the Republican approach would punish those who most need care, Brooks conceded the point and suggested that those who most need care are less deserving of protections.

“My understanding is that it will allow insurance companies to require people who have higher health care costs to contribute more to the insurance pool that helps offset all these costs, thereby reducing the cost to those people who lead good lives, they’re healthy, you know, they are doing the things to keep their bodies healthy,” the Alabama Republican argued. “And right now, those are the people who have done things the right way that are seeing their costs skyrocketing.”

Renate Pore is chairwoman of the West Virginia Medicaid Coalition of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care.