No one can be certain how the average American will be affected by the health care bill approved last week by the U.S. House of Representatives.
That’s because the measure has not yet been analyzed by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, something critics say should have been a necessary first step.
Nevertheless, we know the bill’s key provisions.
According to a report from National Public Radio, the measure would eliminate penalties for failing to buy health insurance. It also would eliminate the requirement that those using federal tax credits buy insurance through the marketplaces created under Obamacare.
Instead, the measure would encourage people to maintain coverage by prohibiting insurance companies from cutting them off or charging more for pre-existing conditions as long as their insurance didn’t lapse. If coverage were interrupted for more than 63 days, insurers would be able to charge a 30% penalty for a year.
The bill would eliminate income-based tax credits and replace them with age-based credits ranging from $2,000 a year for people in their 20’s to $4,000 a year for those older than 60.
An interactive map put together by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows the impact in 2020 for individuals across the country.
As a general rule, younger people would save money under the plan, while older people would pay more.
The map shows a 40-year-old making $50,000 a year in Jackson County would save $3,000 under the proposed bill, seeing his or her share of annual premiums drop from $4,010 to $1,010 after the $3,000 tax credit. A 60-year-old with the same income, meanwhile, would see premiums go up 46% from the Affordable Care Act to $7,430 after the $4,000 tax credit under the American Health Care Act.
You can find a bunch of other numbers— and lots of other information about the proposed new law— by visiting the foundation’s website at kff.org.
From what I can tell, the impact seems hardest for those at the bottom of the economic ladder.
According to the foundation’s map, a Jackson County resident making $20,000 a year pays a premium of $960, or about 5 percent of annual income under the Affordable Care Act.
Under the recently House approved American Health Care Act, the same person earning that same amount would pay $1,190, or about 6 percent of annual income. A 60-year-old with the same income would pay $8,040, or more than 40% of his or her annual income.
That seems unsustainable.
The bill maintains protections for people with pre-existing conditions, but it allows states to opt out. States could apply for waivers that would allow insurance companies to charge older people more than five times what they charge younger people for the same policy, and they could eliminate the so-called essential health benefits, including maternity care and mental health coverage.
The bill would also allow insurance companies to offer policies with annual and lifetime benefit limits, options that are banned under the Affordable Care Act.
The bill does require states to provide a way for people with pre-existing conditions to obtain coverage, and it allocates up to $138 billion over 10 years to fund such programs. But analysis released this week by Avalere Health concluded that that amount wouldn’t be enough to provide full coverage for those with pre-existing conditions now buying insurance through the individual market.
Say what you will about Obamacare, but the law’s goal was to make medical care available to everyone.
Does that remain the goal of the law’s replacement? If so, the measure seems to be coming up short.
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Kelly Hawes, of the Terre Haute Tribune-Star contributed to the research for this column.