Congressional Republicans are falling over themselves to repeal the Affordable Care Act with Scrooge-like joy. It’s as if ideology is more important to them than the fact that hardworking, self-employed taxpayers like my husband and myself could be denied health insurance.
“We’ve got to repeal and replace Obamacare because that is really hurting families,” House Speaker Paul Ryan told 60 Minutes early in December.
“We will move right after the first of the year on an Obamacare repeal resolution,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a news conference December 12.
Given their rabid enthusiasm to scrap the legislation, you’d think there was widespread popularity for this move, but in fact, a post-election survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that just one in four Americans favor outright repeal of ACA. Even if one takes into account those who want the law scaled back, more Americans want the law expanded or implemented as is (49 percent) than want it repealed or scaled back (43 percent).
My husband and I are not alone by being seriously affected by the Republican Party’s enthusiasm for promoting their ideology over the reality of hard-working people’s lives.
Eleven percent of Connecticut’s workforce is comprised of the self-employed — a.k.a. Freelancers — and this number is rising, not just in our state, but nationwide. Approximately 15.3 million people in the United States designated their employment status as “self-employed” as of March 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s just over 10 percent of all U.S. employment.
In addition, a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis estimates that 24 percent of the non-elderly population of the state (522,000 residents) is affected by pre-existing conditions that would leave them uninsurable under the medical underwriting practices used in the individual markets prior to ACA. The conservative estimate of those facing the loss of their health insurance on a nationwide basis, according to Kaiser, is at least 52 million non-elderly adult Americans (27 percent of those under the age of 65).
“Let’s be clear: rather than focusing on strengthening the coverage, the Republican plan would destroy the insurance market and leave millions of business owners without coverage,” said Amanda Ballantyne, National Director of Main Street Alliance, which works to provide small businesses with a voice on public policy issues. “Stripping subsidies and removing the individual mandate could lead to the ‘death spiral’ of spiking premiums, dwindling healthy participants, and fewer insurance companies offering coverage. If we don’t fight back, we could witness the near collapse of the private insurance market.”
But it’s not just the private insurance market that would face catastrophe. Earlier this month, the American Hospital Association and the Federation of American Hospitals released studies outlining the financial implications should Congress repeal the ACA without immediate replacement.
“Allen Dobson, PhD, health economist and president of healthcare consulting firm Dobson/DaVanzo, said that if the ACA is not replaced — or if a replacement fails to make up for the Medicare and Medicaid cuts that are embedded in the ACA — then hospitals could see up to $165.8 billion in losses from 2018 to 2026.”
It’s not even as if scrapping ACA provides relief for budget hawks. A Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation analysis concluded that deficits would increase significantly as a result of repeal:
CBO and JCT estimate that repealing the ACA would have several major effects, relative to the projections under current law:
—Including the budgetary effects of macroeconomic feedback, repealing the ACA would increase federal budget deficits by $137 billion over the 2016-2025 period. That estimate takes into account the proposal’s impact on federal revenues and direct (or mandatory) spending, incorporating the net effects of two components:
—Excluding the effects of macroeconomic feedback — as has been done for previous estimates related to the ACA (and most other CBO cost estimates) — CBO and JCT estimate that federal deficits would increase by $353 billion over the 2016-2025 period if the ACA was repealed.
I’m old enough to remember when the Republican Party didn’t just pay lip service to being the party of the hardworking, entrepreneurial business people. For today’s GOP, that’s as long as you or your kids don’t have any pre-existing health problems, or else frankly, they couldn’t give a damn.
Sarah Darer Littman is an award-winning columnist and novelist of books for teens. A former securities analyst, she’s now an adjunct in the MFA program at WCSU (and as such is an AAUP member), and enjoys helping young people discover the power of finding their voice as an instructor at the Writopia Lab.
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