The Republican plan is to take away your health care to pay for their tax cuts

The Republican plan is to take away your health care to pay for their tax cuts
© Getty Images

Just like with their failed health care bill, Republicans have been working to quickly jam through their tax bill before the American people, or even tax experts, understand what’s in it. But what we already know about the bill makes Republican priorities clear: They want to take away health care from millions of Americans to pay for tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy few.

Over the summer, we saw a health care repeal bill that cut taxes for the wealthy by hundreds of billions of dollars. Now we have a tax cut bill paid for by increasing the ranks of the uninsured by 13 million, raising premiums for the middle-class, and cutting Medicare.

ADVERTISEMENT
For Republicans, it seems that health care for middle-class families is little more than a piggy bank to be used to pay back their wealthy donors with enormous tax breaks.

 

On Tuesday, Republicans announced that they would be including repeal of the individual mandate in their plan to cuts taxes for the wealthy. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that doing so would result in 13 million fewer people with health coverage by 2025 and 10 percent higher premiums over the next decade.

That translates to a premium increase of $1,990 in 2019 for a typical middle-class family of four that buys insurance on its own. As Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Health Care: 3.6M signed up for ObamaCare in first month | Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' next year | Dems push for more money to fight opioids Study: ObamaCare bills backed by Collins would lower premiums Right scrambles GOP budget strategy MORE (R-Maine) correctly noted, “for some middle-income people, [the premium increase] will cancel out their tax cut.”

On top of that, CBO revealed that the Republican tax bill would result in a $25 billion Medicare cut in 2018, and hundreds of billions of dollars of cuts to the program over the next ten years. The greatest risk from these cuts would be to rural hospitals, given their thin operating margins.

Some supporters of the tax bill have argued that repealing the individual mandate simply gives people more choice. But that argument does not hold up; no family is choosing to have its premiums increase nearly $2,000 so corporations can permanently pad their profits. As even some Republican members of Congress have admitted, eliminating the individual mandate is not about expanding consumer choice, but simply another way to try to undermine the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The ACA prevents insurers from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions, requires that people be charged the same amount regardless of health status, and eliminates lifetime and annual caps on coverage. Without a requirement for people to have continuous coverage, these protections would allow people to take advantage of the rules by only paying for insurance coverage when they need it. The individual mandate prevents this problem by requiring everyone to maintain continuous coverage or pay a fee.

Without it, insurers would be forced to either raise prices substantially or leave the market entirely. The resulting increase in the uninsured would mean that hospitals would have to cover more uncompensated care, straining their budgets. The whole system would see increased costs and decreased care, the reason why this addition to the tax bill is opposed by hospitals, doctors, and insurers alike.

Concerned about the risks of taking health care from millions to pay for tax cuts for the one percent, some have suggested that Congress could pass the Murray-Alexander stabilization bill to mitigate the damage.

But such hopes are misplaced; that proposal addresses an entirely different type of ACA sabotage, and would do nothing to stop the destructive effects of this tax bill. And, of course, the Murray-Alexander plan would not fill the massive hole in Medicare spending the tax bill would leave behind.

Moderate Republicans are left with a simple choice. They can cater to the worst instincts of their party by putting the interests of their wealthy donors before their constituents. Or, as some had the courage to do this past summer, they can take a stand for everyday Americans and reject this senseless attack on people’s health care. In just a little while, we’ll find out whether there are any such courageous Republicans left.

Sam Berger is a senior advisor at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.