Access to healthcare is vital for economic security and upward mobility. Working people and people with low income in particular need healthcare coverage to stay healthy, go to work and school, provide for their families, and pursue upward mobility. Both Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have helped tens of millions of Americans get the care and services they need to live healthy and productive lives, and have served as two of the most effective anti-poverty programs in our country’s history.
Despite major healthcare gains and public opinion polls showing that the vast majority of Americans support building on the ACA instead of repealing it outright, House Republicans released a healthcare plan on Monday that would sharply reverse historic progress and radically undermine a key component of the country’s safety net and ladder of upward mobility—leaving the physical and financial health of tens of millions in peril. The plan especially attacks the healthcare of people living in poverty and people of color—those who made particularly significant gains in access to care and services under the ACA.
The GOP’s health plan would tear at the fabric of our healthcare system. The replacement plan, titled the American Health Care Act, proposes repealing the ACA; shifting federal funding from poorer and sicker individuals to healthier and wealthier ones; eliminating cost-sharing assistance; repealing the individual and employer mandates; dismantling key consumer protections; and rolling back the Medicaid expansion in 2020.
Moreover, the GOP health plan would fundamentally devastate Medicaid, threatening to end our nation’s commitment to coverage for those who need it the most. By turning the program into a “per-capita-cap,” the plan would cap and drastically reduce the amount of federal money given to states to provide care and services. As similar reforms in the past have shown, these sorts of structural attacks shift major costs to the states and localities and place programs on the path to extinction. The GOP’s health plan would end Medicaid as we know it.
The GOP’s health plan would fall hardest on people living in poverty and people of color. If implemented, the GOP’s plan would result in massive coverage loss, send out-of-pocket costs and premiums skyrocketing, inject massive instability into our healthcare system, undermine the quality of coverage for even those who retain insurance, drive more people into poverty, and ultimately cause tens of millions to go without the services and care they need to be healthy. The physical and financial devastation would be worn most by those least able to afford it—working people, people with low-income, people of color, people with disabilities, children, pregnant women, and seniors. All of this would be in service to huge tax cuts for the rich.
If federal lawmakers are serious about ensuring that everyone has access to high-quality, affordable healthcare, they will heed the outcry from their constituents and build on, rather than attack, the ACA and Medicaid. As federal lawmakers rush attacks on healthcare through the legislative process with little transparency and oversight, the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law will continue to work to ensure that the voices of people with low-income and people of color are heard. The question is whether Congress will listen.