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People are #waitingfor2018, Thanks to Health Care Mess

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May 11, 2017
By Andy Brack | Contributing Writer

If you think Obamacare is a disaster, get ready for whatever it is that the Congressional Republicans passed to fix the Affordable Care Act as the political cluster that could be the mother of all nightmares.

Why? Because instead of making something that’s a policy and political mess less messy, it’s going to be even messier, particularly after the U.S. Senate gets it.

“Don’t know what’s in it; waiting to see if it’s a boy or a girl,” U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., joked before the House vote. “But any bill that has been posted less than 24 hours — going to be debated three or four hours, not scored — needs to be viewed with suspicion.”

The health reform bill that squeaked by the House of Representatives in Washington by four votes with no Democratic support has problems:

No one really knows how much it will cost. The Congressional Budget Office has yet to score it because the whole package was new and rushed for a vote while a tenuous majority of support held. U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, the state’s lone House Democrat who voted against the bill, called it the “Pay More For Less Health Care Bill.”

No one really knows how many people will lose health coverage. An earlier House bill shot down a few weeks ago predicted savings of $150 billion, but loss of coverage to 24 million Americans who couldn’t afford reformed coverage.

No one really knows the impact on South Carolina policyholders. If the newly-passed bill is anywhere close the earlier version, some 200,000 people now covered with health insurance could lose it or drop it.

No one really knows the long-term impact to people with pre-existing conditions. The just-passed bill attracted support of more moderate GOP House members after leaders added $8 billion over five years to help cover costs of those with pre-existing conditions. After five years? The money would run out, putting those with pre-exiting conditions in financial jeopardy.

Call us surprised that so many congressmen would even consider voting for any bill with such a big potential impact while knowing so little about that impact — especially when we know this:

We know premiums likely will go up as state insurers try to deal with a brave new world of health insurance. While Obamacare isn’t perfect, experts say it has offered stability to allow some insurers to plan better for the future. The new bill would seem to put that at risk.

We know fewer people will be able to afford health insurance if states are allowed to give waivers to insurers to let them charge higher rates. The whole point of Obamacare was to add people to the insurance markets so risk was spread out, particularly among younger people who aren’t sick. What the new bill seems to do is return things to the status quo where the people are insured aren’t young or well.

We do know the whole mess is far from over. The House victory may simply be a way for GOP members to trade wrath from Republican supporters who wanted reform to anger from others who want Obamacare to stay in place. Perhaps they thought town hall meetings in the days of ahead would be easier if a bill passed. They won’t.

We also know the Senate is skeptical about whatever the House has done. With the upper chamber having different rules and the GOP having a narrower edge, whatever emerges from the Senate will be much-changed, making much of the speculation about the impact of the House bill moot.

We know if something ever emerges from the Senate before the 2018 elections, it would have to go back to the feisty House and its competing GOP factions. If the Senate version is significantly different, the whole package might get stuck in a conference committee, never to see the light of day.

Finally, we also know one more thing: With everybody seemingly angry these days about everything, the 217 people who voted for the House bill will face a lot of irritated voters in 2018. And they just may throw out the rats with a new crop of rats who might work on reforming the reform.


Andy Brack is editor and publisher of Statehouse Report. Have a comment? Send to: feedback@statehousereport.com.


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