The American Healthcare Act of 2017 (AHCA) passed through the US House yesterday. Since then, the news and social media is overflowing with hyperbole and hysteria from the left. It can be difficult to sort through the drama. What passed yesterday is intended to be phase one of a three phase "repeal and replace" plan. I am not a healthcare or insurance expert and while I have my own opinions, I don't know with absolute certainty what should or should not be in the 3 phases. I don't know that anyone does. I do feel much better about it knowing that the Freedom Caucus and others were able to come to an agreement on a plan. It's all so complicated and convoluted that it's hard to predict how it will all play out. But, what I do know is that ACA (aka Obamacare) has been a disaster and is hurting American families.
Those hardest hit have been in the individual insurance pool, my family included. We, like many Americans, are self-employed. Prior to ACA, my family, with four children, paid less than $500 per month for a PPO plan with a $7500 per year deductible. In 2015, our premiums doubled. Prices continued to increase, our choices began to decrease, and eventually our plan was no longer offered. We became and remained uninsured. Beginning January of 2017, a family of four in our area can be insured through the exchange in a bronze level HMO plan for over $2000 per month with a $14,000 deductible and only 60% coverage after the deductible has been met. Costs would be even higher for a family of six like ours. We opted to risk being forced to pay the penalty and to pay cash for care at local clinics, including paying for my high cost monthly asthma medications. It was too expensive to do anything else. My husband recently took a second job which includes insurance benefits, largely so that we could finally have coverage. I know many families like ours.
The problems don’t end there. We are seeing a mass exodus of insurance providers from the marketplace. Less competition means higher costs, fewer options and a lower standard of care as more people are channeled into a smaller pool of providers. In Arizona, every county but one has only one insurance provider in the market. This is the case for Maricopa County, Arizona’s largest county, and one of the nation’s hotspots for population growth over the last decade. The roughly 4 million residents of Maricopa County have about 150 healthcare providers to choose from within the Centene Health Net network if they choose to insure through ACA. Arizona is not an anomaly. In 2016, there were 225 counties in the US that had only one ACA insurance provider. In 2017 there are 1022 counties with only one choice. Additionally, there are multiple counties now in danger of losing their last remaining provider in 2018.
This cannot continue. Understandably, some people with pre-existing conditions are concerned about changes, and the left is amplifying that fear. But, in AHCA, those with pre-existing conditions must still be offered coverage. Furthermore, one of the compromises worked out between the Republican caucuses was the inclusion of money that will be sent to states to help offset costs associated with pre-existing conditions within each state's individual market. The real question we should be asking the left is how will those people get any care at all when Obamacare fully implodes? This week, AZ Congressman David Schweikert presented some of the problems and cost impacts of ACA and the reasons why we must make changes. You can watch the video here.
What seems to be missing in all the hysterical dialogue is the real life negative impact that ACA has already had on Americans, especially the self-employed, the small business owners and anyone else not covered by employers and not eligible for Medicaid. We have seen higher rates, fewer insurers and less care due to the implementation of ACA. Despite the claims of success, many of us can no longer afford even the most basic health insurance for our children. This is one of the reasons why so many voted Donald Trump. Regular, everyday Americans were tired of reality not matching the hype. Many of them are desperately hoping that President Trump and the Republicans in Congress will fully complete the promise to “repeal and replace” and that we will see some actual relief. There is still much work to be done, but step one happened yesterday.