by Brad Lowell
Once again the Republicans in the Senate are rushing to vote on an ill-conceived plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
The new proposal is being rushed to a vote before the federal fiscal year ends Sept 30. Under an arcane Senate procedure known as budget reconciliation, by designating the health-care bill effort as a fiscal goal, the measure can be approved by a simple majority. After Sept. 30, it will take 60 votes to approve the measure.
Granted, Kansas will receive more funding under the proposed block grant program that replaces Medicaid expansion. Over all, states that expanded Medicaid and voted for Hillary Clinton will receive smaller per-capita block grants.
The bill would repeal the subsidies to help lower income people to pay out-of-pocket costs such as deductibles and co-payments.
Tax credits for premiums for middle-income Americans would be repealed by 2020. Also, the individual and employer mandates would be repealed retroactively to 2016. This means there would be no penalties for individuals not purchasing health-care insurance and that employers with larger companies would not be required to provide health-care insurance.
States could secure waivers to eliminate essential health benefits, pre-existing conditions and restrictions on charging more for older Americans. Obamacare required all insurers to offer 10 essential health-care benefits such as maternity treatment and hospital care.
A state could seek a waiver on pre-existing conditions, which could effectively price people with prior health problems out of the insurance market. The same is true for the provision in the GOP’s bill covering older Americans. Currently, insurance companies can only charge older people three times as much as they charge their younger customers.
Even though Kansans collectively might gain through the block grant program, individually there would be some cruel cuts that would cause fewer Kansans to be insured.
There is nothing in this bill that would bring down escalating insurance premiums and improve health care for the masses. The uncertainty of what will happen in Congress has caused panic among the insurance companies and they are either pulling out of the federal exchanges or considering huge premium increases for 2018.
Republicans champion individual rights, but at what cost? Individuals who wish to drive a car or truck must provide of proof insurance. So, why not be required to pay a fine for not having health-care insurance?
A Blue Ribbon commission needs to be appointed to dig into the escalating costs of health care and what can be done about it. The problems can not be solved by politicians in Washington or Topeka because they are so polarized and do not have the backgrounds to fully understand what is needed.
We call on Sen. Pat Roberts and Sen. Jerry Moran to vote “no” on the Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy proposal.
A letter from Sen. Moran back in January of this year made suggestions that should be included in any new health-care policy considerations. They include maintaining pre-existing condition protection; allowing Americans to shop for insurance from coast to coast; extending tax savings to assist low-income Americans; give small businesses the ability to pool together in order to offer health insurance plans at lower costs; incentivize individuals to save now for future and long-term care needs; advance life-saving medical research and spur innovation to reduce costs; address the shortage of our medical workforce by advancing initiatives that educate and train doctors, nurses and other health-care professional and to curb the preventable costs that are incurred through unnecessary emergency room visits.
Lastly, Moran recommended the medical liability system be reformed, which would reduce the frivolous lawsuits that result in inflated health-care provider insurance which leads to the practice of “defensive medicine” where doctors order every possible test for fear of being sued.
Moran might also include a suggestion from President Trump and find a way of draining the swamp of the 3,300 registered health-care insurance lobbyists.
Brad Loewell, publisher of the Concordia Blade-Empire, has been in the newspaper business since 1963 and has serve two terms on the Kansas Press Association board of directors.