The GOP's Healthcare Woes Continue


Most Americans have had some gripe or another with the Affordable Care Act, colloquially known as Obamacare. Liberals criticized the fact that it still kept privatized health insurers making profits and was far from universal health care. Conservatives criticized the top-down mandates on businesses and the additional regulatory burdens on the healthcare industry.  Everyone criticized the higher health insurance premiums for the middle class. 

But then Republican nominee Donald Trump became president and vowed to repeal and replace Obamacare. Suddenly, a red-hot battle ensued. Liberals began supporting the controversial healthcare law and an ultra-conservative GOP replacement bill, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), died on the vine due to Republican infighting. But, as Donald Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) vowed, the GOP alternative to Obamacare is back…and it ain’t pretty.

A month ago, the AHCA failed to gain traction because it alienated both liberal Republicans, who saw its gutting of Medicaid as cruel and draconian, and ardent conservatives, who saw it as too regulatory and liberal-friendly. Apparently, Trump and co. have decided to “fix” the problem by removing the liberal leanings and sticking to staunch conservatism. Specifically, the AHCA redux changes three prominent Obamacare provisions that were included in the failed bill last month: The “essential health benefits” provision, the “community rating” provision, and the “age rating” provision. 

The “essential benefits” provision of Obamacare required health insurance companies to provide comprehensive care in all plans. Conservatives have long criticized this as raising prices on consumers who do not need coverage for things like maternity care or physical therapy, and the GOP is looking to excise this provision in order to allow insurers to offer less comprehensive plans that have lower premiums. The “age rating” provision limits premium hikes on the elderly, but has the unpleasant effect of doing so on the young, which has also brought about lots of complaints.

But it is the “community rating” provision that brings about a potential huge thorn for Republicans looking to pass AHCA part deux: The GOP bill-writers have added an amendment to exclude themselves (members of Congress) and their staffs from the removal of this provision, which would allow health insurers to charge higher premiums for those with pre-existing conditions. Basically, those who are writing AHCA 2.0 are making sure that their own premiums don’t go up.

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