The legislative proposal released last week to repeal the Affordable Care Act is threatening the health coverage of millions of Californians including those with individual coverage, consumer health care advocates said.
The new bill to repeal the ACA was released by Speaker Paul Ryan, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and the GOP Leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives last week.
The rollback of the ACA and Medicaid coverage with the GOP bill would not only repeal health coverage for millions of Californians, but it will also undermine Medi-Cal as well, it will reduce health coverage and increase costs to consumers.
“Based on what I’ve seen and heard so far, these proposals will still result in the exact opposite of what they have promised during all their years of bashing the ACA,” said Senator Ed Hernández, D-West Covina of the GOP’s plan to replace the ACA. “Under this Republican plan, we will see higher out-of-pocket costs, more people without insurance and much less comprehensive coverage for those who manage to keep their insurance.”
The plan will affect approximately 14 million people with health coverage with the Medi-Cal program in the state and five million with coverage under the ACA.
“Under this plan, millions of Californians in public and private coverage will lose their coverage and care,” said Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “The plan goes beyond repealing the coverage for five million Californians under the ACA, but also caps and cuts the full Medi-Cal program, which covers 14 million Californians.”
Medi-Cal covers a third of the state and nearly half of Central Valley and is a fundamental financing pillar in the state’s whole health system.
The GOP bill would phase out the ACA’s Medicaid or Medi-Cal expansion by 2020 which would cost California at least $8 Billion in funding and will impact approximately 4.1 Million Californians.
The bill also calls for cap and cut on Medicaid which could force cut tens of billions, ending guarantee or reducing care for 14 million Californians currently on Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program.
Before the ACA, California had one of the highest uninsured rates in the nation, and after the implementation of the healthcare reform, the state saw the greatest percentage reduction of its uninsured rate of any state.
The bill also calls for the reduction, restructuring and shifting of tax credits which means hundreds of thousands of people in the state could find coverage unaffordable and would lose health coverage, while others would see insurance premium rates and cost spikes for those unsubsidized.
For those who buy coverage on the individual market, the proposal raises copays and deductibles while reducing financial help to pay for premiums and cost sharing, according to a Health Access fact sheet released last week.
Currently, 90 percent of the 1.5 million Californians enrolled in Covered California get financial assistance based on their income to help them afford coverage, a tax credit on average of $440 a month.
The House Republican proposal would significantly reduce the tax credits that consumers currently receive and effectively results in a major tax hike on many low- and moderate-income families who now get help through Covered California.
The proposed tax credits are worth about half the financial help available under the ACA.
“What we have learned in this process is that the Republicans aren’t really interested in trying to address problems in the health insurance market,” Hernández said. “Instead, repealing the ACA is just one more way they can cut taxes for the wealthy.”
Health advocates said the legislative proposal to repeal the ACA goes much further to undermine California’s health system, especially in capping Medicaid and spiking premiums and cost-sharing for those who buy coverage in the individual market.
Hernández said he “would have been happy to work on a bipartisan effort to address the rising cost of insurance and limiting out-of-pocket expenses, but that isn’t what this plan is about. This plan is a tax cut for the rich at the expense of insurance coverage for hard working people.”
“Given the disproportionate impacts on our state, no California congress member, of either party, should be voting for this bill that would do so much damage throughout our health system,” Wright said. “Even those who promised to repeal Obamacare said in the same breath they would replace it, with something better – and there’s no analysis that shows that this would do anything but reduce coverage and increase costs.”
Wright said the bill was released last week without the regular independent analysis of coverage, cost and financial impacts by the Congressional Budget Office.
“They know the answer will be that it costs more and covers less,” he said. “Even with many unanswered questions, it’s clear this proposal will leave many more Americans uninsured, and far more dealing with higher health care costs.”