Washington, D.C. – Following the major role health care played in Democratic Congressman-elect Conor Lamb’s upset victory in PA-18, studies showing that Republican sabotage and repeal could raise premiums up to 94%, and despite all that, reports of ongoing Republican efforts to sabotage health care in the upcoming Omnibus, Protect Our Care Campaign Chair Leslie Dach released the following statement:
“Despite Tuesday’s groundbreaking election in Pennsylvania, the clearest wake-up call yet that GOP health care sabotage is an albatross around the neck of anyone who supports it, Congressional Republicans continue to sabotage Americans’ health care, pushing a stabilization package that would not even begin to undo the damage they have done, and launching new attacks on women’s health.
“Because President Trump and his Republican allies in Congress have been trying to repeal and sabotage our health care for over a year, premiums are up twenty percent and millions of Americans have lost their coverage. But instead of addressing the very real damage they have caused in order to lower premiums, Republicans would rather attacks women’s health and encourage insurance companies to offer junk plans that can deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.
“Enough is enough. It’s time for the GOP to stop this war on our health care. If President Trump and Congressional Republicans think that grandstanding on a stabilization bill to fix their own wreckage will give them political cover, they are dead wrong.”
THE GOP HAS ATTEMPTED TO SABOTAGE AMERICANS’ HEALTH CARE AT EVERY TURN
From the moment that Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans took power, they’ve done everything they can to repeal and sabotage Americans’ health care. Now they’re claiming they want to stabilize the marketplaces and lower premiums. This false rhetoric is merely the latest ploy from Republicans who have seen the writing on the wall – Americans are furious about the Republican repeal-and-sabotage agenda.
For the better part of a year, President Trump and his Republican allies in Congress tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act legislatively, striving to kick 32 million Americans off of their coverage and returning to the days when insurers had the power to choose who to deny coverage to by removing protections for those with pre-existing conditions.
When this failed, they doubled down on their administrative sabotage, carrying out a closed-door campaign to undermine the law through administrative actions. These included cancelling cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments designed to lower premiums; using funding for coverage enrollment to launch a propaganda campaign against the law; and attempting to gut open enrollment by reducing the advertising budget by 90% percent, costing an additional 1.1 million people coverage.
These repeal-and-sabotage attempts culminated in December, when the GOP voted to get rid of the individual mandate in their tax scam, ripping insurance away from ten million people and raising premiums double-digits for millions more in order to finance a tax cut for the wealthiest Americans and corporations.
In the time since, President Trump and his allies in Congress have promoted short-term health policies, which neglect key consumer protection provisions such as protections for those with pre-existing conditions and coverage mandates for essential benefits like maternity care; they have supported association health plans (AHPs), which raise costs for people with pre-existing conditions and further destabilize the insurance markets; and they have encouraged states to promote plans which violate the law, promoting and end-run around the ACA despite such procedures being labeled “wildly illegal.”
A study from the Urban Institute found that this sabotage will result in an increase in individual market premiums by an average of 18.2 percent for 2019.
THE GOP HAS REFUSED TO ACT ON MEASURES TO ACTUALLY STABILIZE THE MARKETS
What the GOP has not done through all of this, however, is undertake a genuine effort to actually stabilize the marketplaces.
Following the collapse of the legislative repeal bills in July, Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) began holding hearings on stabilization, bringing in insurance commissioners, governors, and health care experts of both parties. The GOP refused to act on their recommendations, however, instead pivoting to yet another attempt to repeal the ACA through the Graham-Cassidy legislation.
After Graham-Cassidy, which would have kicked twenty million Americans’ off of their insurance and raised premiums double-digits went down in flames, the GOP went through yet another charade on stabilization, refusing to move forward on the bipartisan Alexander-Murray bill to address stabilization despite it having a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.
A STABILIZATION BILL MUST ACTUALLY STABILIZE THE MARKETPLACE
Now, the GOP says it wants to support stabilization measures. Where was this in the winter, when notices of skyrocketing premiums were going out across the country? Where was this in the fall, when experts were on Capitol Hill lamenting the damage being done to the marketplace? Where was this in the summer, when advocates were begging the GOP to do something rather than push forward yet another repeal bill?
Congressional Republican efforts to undo the damage they and President Trump have caused are wholly insufficient and often turn to failed ideas like high risk pools, which will leave Americans with higher costs and worse coverage. Any bill to stabilize the insurance marketplaces and reverse Republican-caused sabotage must:
- Expand affordability by increasing the value of premium tax credits and cost-sharing reduction protections;
- Ensure cost sharing protections fulfill their original purpose of improving affordability and Basic Health Plans are fully funded in order to protect coverage levels;
- Apply the consumer protections of the Affordable Care Act – such as guaranteed issue, community rating, protections for preexisting conditions – to short term duration plans and protect the essential health benefits from being undermined;
- Provide for a national meaningful reinsurance program that reduces current premium levels and stabilizes the market;
- Adequately fund outreach and enrollment efforts;
- Reject bringing back high-risk pools and Association Health Plans; two failed experiments that would have a destabilizing effect on the marketplace by incentivizing healthier individuals to leave the ACA compliant market, thereby negatively affecting the risk pool and increasing premiums; and
- Reject punitive and duplicative new anti-choice restrictions on health centers.
Many of the above provisions are included in the recent bills introduced in the Senate by Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and in the House by Reps. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Richard Neal (D-MA), and Bobby Scott (D-VA). If Republicans in Congress truly care about stabilization, they will work with Democrats to adopt these provisions and implement a bipartisan, common-sense package to lower premiums and expand coverage options. Anything else is just crocodile tears from elected officials more worried about partisan politics than about Americans’ health.