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Last week, the Health Policy Consensus Group released a plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It is reported that this group, led by longtime ACA critic, former Senator Rick Santorum, has been working with Senate Republicans and the White House on this “new” plan. Make no mistake; as we noted in a joint statement with the Medicare Rights Center on June 22, 2018, the plan is essentially a redo of the Graham-Cassidy bill that was overwhelmingly rejected last summer.   

After last year’s defeat of the Graham-Cassidy bill, Senator Graham said “We’re coming back to this after taxes.” And here they are. This new effort looks like the first step toward reviving the earlier plan that would cause millions of Americans to lose their health coverage, raise costs for people who are older or sicker, and further destabilize the ACA Marketplace. Equally as troubling, the plan would weaken protections for people with pre-existing conditions and would end Medicaid expansion – hurting low-income people, vulnerable older adults, children, and families throughout the country.      

According to the Center for American Progress, this “new” proposal could cut funding for ACA coverage by 31 percent by 2028 and funding for Medicaid by $649 billion from 2022 to 2028. These cuts would be devastating to older people and people with significant health care needs who need comprehensive coverage, including approximately 11 million people with Medicare who rely on Medicaid to help cover costs and obtain care not covered by Medicare.

This plan is yet another effort to undermine the ACA, disrupt the Marketplace and raise premiums. It comes on the heels of the Administration’s recently-released final rule expanding the use of Association Health Plans that would draw in younger healthier people and raise costs for older people left in ACA plans. Further, as discussed in a previous Alert, the Santorum plan builds on the Administration’s recent announcement that it will not defend the ACA against a lawsuit seeking to repeal it, siding against provisions of the ACA that guarantee coverage to people who are older, sicker, or have pre-existing conditions. These cumulative efforts to repeal and undermine the ACA will harm older adults not yet eligible for Medicare through increased costs and, in some cases, will bar access to coverage altogether. This will further strain Medicare finances, as more people who have gone without adequate health care will age into the program. 

The Affordable Care Act made it possible for older people with pre-existing conditions to gain access to quality, often life-saving, coverage. Millions of people gained access to essential health benefits such as prescription drugs, preventive services, emergency services and hospital care. It is time for attempts to sabotage health care to come to an end.

June 28, 2018 – B. Belton

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