First, in one last ditch attempt to fulfill the cynical promise to repeal and replace the ACA, a group of Republicans - Senators Graham, Cassidy and Heller - are rushing through a bill to give the ACA’s Medicaid funds to the individual states while dramatically reducing and eventually eliminating health care subsidies over a 10 year period. In many respects the Graham-Cassidy bill is even worse than the repeal and replace efforts that failed earlier this year, since the bill is a vehicle for the elimination of the ACA guarantees protecting people with preexisting conditions, prohibiting lifetime insurance limits and mandating women’s reproductive health coverage. The bill also cuts back on the traditional, non-ACA Medicaid funds that go to seniors (for long term nursing home care), people with disabilities and families with children. In short, Graham-Cassidy-Heller leaves everyone – not just ACA recipients - worse off than they are now.
Meanwhile, the Trump Administration is carrying out a second attack on the ACA by systematically misinterpreting and undercutting the law as it administers it. Trump has refused to commit to continuing the CSR subsidies (Cost Sharing Reductions) that make ACA policies affordable to many middle class and lower income consumers. By playing a cagey game– neither agreeing to pay the subsidies or admitting that they won’t pay them - Trump and Secretary Tom Price have driven up premiums in many states by an additional 17% to 60% thereby driving away potential insurers and buyers alike. They have also cut the outreach program by up to 92% eliminating a key group that helps consumers cut through the red tape and other difficulties of signing up for insurance. And finally, Trump and Price have taken the money that was dedicated to advertising the ACA and spent it on anti-ACA propaganda videos – turning information into disinformation. We should resist this attack by protesting vehemently to our Members of Congress AND by getting the word out that the ACA Open enrollment period for 2018 begins November 1. If Trump and Price won’t do their jobs, we can take the initiative to talk up the benefits and remind folks of the deadlines for enrollment.
We are happy to say that there is also a ray of hope! While Trump and Graham and company are doubling down on destroying the ACA, a small group of Republicans and Democrats are working to stabilize the ACA marketplaces. Senators Lamar Alexander (Republican) and Patty Murray (Democrat) are working to strike a compromise that will preserve the cost sharing reductions and allow states more latitude in how they administer their local programs. As with all compromises, the devil is in the details but, so far, Alexander and Murray have sketched out a promising approach and worked together cooperatively. They deserve our support.
Call To Action
Call your Senators and tell them that:
- The Graham-Cassidy-Heller bill is unacceptable and should not come to the floor for a vote. This bill has not been before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, nor has it been scored by the Congressional Budget Office.
- Support the efforts of Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray to fix the Affordable Care Act. Specifically, they should support CSR payments and the restoration of money dedicated to truthful advertising and effective outreach.
- Help support the ACA by reminding your friends, co-workers and acquaintances that the enrollment period for the ACA in 2018 runs from November 1, 2017 to December 15, 2017. Plans sold during the Open Enrollment period start January 1, 2018. People who qualify for the Children’s Health Insurance Program can apply for both at the same time.