Trumpcare bill a concern for Dems
May 11, 2017
Just a shade over seven years following passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly dubbed Obamacare, congressional Republicans recently passed their own healthcare reform bill through the U.S. House of Representatives, creating uncertainty in the health care market that could affect people in Grand County and around the country.
The American Health Care Act of 2017, taking on the colloquial name Trumpcare, and is already garnering similar controversy that marked the battles surrounding Obamacare. This time, however, it's the Democrats that are the opposing party.
The bill must still pass the hurdle of the Senate, and senators will have a few options at that point: forward the bill to the president's desk for approval, rewrite it or deny it outright.
The potential impacts of the bill are hard to gauge, but based on wording of the bill that was passed in the House, rural communities like those in Grand County could see significant impacts, according to local leaders.
“I personally am concerned about the possibility that Grand County residents might lose coverage if they have pre-existing conditions. I am concerned that health insurance premiums might go up. We are watching Congress closely.”
— Grand County Commissioner Rich Cimino
Grand County's Rural Health Network is one of the many entities watching closely the proceedings surrounding Trumpcare.
Jen Fanning, executive director of Rural Health Network, said her organization does not have a formal position on the new bill, but offered her own views.
"Our overall position is we are for whatever improves access to care," Fanning said. "Health insurance is a key component to care. While there are some good components in this bill, there are some components that will drastically reduce our state's and county's ability to access health insurance."
Fanning said, however, that she is encouraged by a few elements in the bill. Though overall she was more concerned about the bill's potential impacts on rural areas. She noted the bills that deal with health savings account provisions as positive, adding that she was happy about the bill allowing couples to both contribute to such accounts to the highest maximum amounts.
"Things like that will really help people who have the means to do that," she said. "But it won't help those who don't."
Fanning specifically highlighted four elements of Trumpcare that concern her, primarily changing available tax credits from income based to age based. "That sounds good because costs increase as you age but we have a significant amount of our population 60 and over who don't yet qualify for Medicare and have lower incomes," she explained. "Even with the age-based credit — only $4,000 for 60 and over — a lot of people won't be able to afford it."
Other concerning provisions within the bill she noted allowed individuals states to fully repeal Obamacare and allowances for denial of preexisting conditions.
"The ability to repeal (Obamacare) means states could repeal the essential health benefits," she said. "That means pregnancy, dental care and things that have been proven to save the system money may not be covered."
If some states choose to deny coverage for certain preexisting conditions, she said it could create a scenario wherein citizens from states that deny coverage may move to states that do not, putting further strains on health care systems at the state level. Citizens who find themselves denied coverage for preexisting conditions may also be more inclined to seek treatment from emergency rooms, thus increasing overall health care costs.
According to Fanning's view of the bill, it looks to cut Medicaid reimbursement for the states. "The feds pay for the majority of those reimbursements," she explained. "That is us. That is our community. There are people here right now who have almost no income, who qualify for Medicaid and need to be seen. If the State can't afford that, because the feds cut reimbursements, it will really impact seasonal communities like ours."
Grand County Commissioner Rich Cimino echoed Fanning's concerns.
He noted that the Grand County government does not have a formal position on the legislation and stressed the need to wait and see what changes develop in the Senate.
"I personally am concerned about the possibility that Grand County residents might lose coverage if they have pre-existing conditions," he said. "I am concerned that health insurance premiums might go up. We are watching Congress closely."