Shredding the Health Safety Net

By Fred Kammer, S.J.
Over the past 50 years, Medicare, Medicaid, and other measures moved our health care system closer to the Catholic principle that health care is a natural right rooted in the sanctity and dignity of the human person.  
Most recently, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 added protection of that right for more than 24 million Americans[1]  who still did not have affordable and comprehensive care and protected 52 million people with pre-existing medical conditions. Now, the American Health Care Act, passed on May 4 by the U.S. House, and the Better Care Reconciliation Act, introduced in June into the U.S. Senate, have threatened not just to roll back the ACA and its protections but to deny coverage under the ACA and Medicaid to 23 (House) or 22 (Senate) million Americans. It also will upend insurance markets, savage state budgets, drive up unemployment, and badly impact rural communities.
Senators promised that their bill would be different from that of the House, and President Trump termed the House Bill “mean.” The Senate, however, kept most of the terrible House provisions and their negative consequences[2]:
• Tens of millions of people lose health coverage.
• Millions of low-income adults lose Medicaid expansion.
• Medicaid for seniors, people with disabilities, and children is capped and cut.
• Tax credits are cut and premiums raised by thousands of dollars for many older people.
• Individual market premiums rise by 20 percent for 2018.
• Insurers can drop coverage for maternity care, mental health, and substance abuse.
• Opioid addiction coverage is cut by billions of dollars.
• Survival of rural hospitals dependent on Medicaid is threatened.
• Employer and individual mandates to purchase insurance will be ended.