Indian River County- Health Care

Florida is the home to many elderly Americans, with about 20 percent of its population 65 and older. It is also the state with the nation’s highest enrollment in the Affordable Care Act plans at 1.7 million sign-ups for 2017.

On May 4, 2017, Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act with the American Health Care Act, now known as “Trumpcare.”  “The American Health Care Act (ACHA) passed by the House today by a vote of 217 to 213 is significantly worse than the version considered last month,” said American Psychological Association President Antonio E. Puente, PhD. “The bill now opens the door to health plans once again charging exorbitant premiums to the tens of millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions.”

Tax Relief for the Wealthy First

What is important to remember as we begin to understand that the Republican plans are cutting health insurance for over 20 million Americans but they are also giving tax cuts to billionaires.  With the repeal of the ACA, taxes on the roughly top 5 percent of income earners would drop considerably providing tax relief to the wealthy.

In the Senate version of the AHCA, the top 400 highest-income Americans — with average annual incomes of more than $300 million each — would receive an estimated average tax cut of $7 million each year as part of the repeal, according to a study of Internal Revenue Service data.That would result in a $2.8 billion a year loss in tax revenue to the Treasury.

Roughly 160 million households with incomes below $200,000 would get nothing from the repeal of these two taxes, according to the study.  Meanwhile, the repeal of Obamacare would effectively raise taxes on about seven million low-and-moderate income families that currently qualify for health insurance premium tax credits under the federal tax code.

Losers: Children, Working Adults, Veterans and the Disabled

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 22 million Americans would lose insurance coverage by 20026 under this bill, particularly because of the phase-out of Medicaid benefits to primarily children, working adults, and the disabled.  It also could have an extremely negative effect on our nation’s veterans.

According to the ranking Democrat on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, the Senate bill could:

  • Result in nearly 1.75 million disabled and low-income veterans losing Medicaid coverage
  • Impose a tax on 600,000 veterans, forcing them to pay up to five times more for health insurance
  • Cause more than 5 million veterans difficulty in finding services at rural hospitals
  • Generate increased mental health-care fees for the many veterans who suffer post-traumatic stress from the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam
  • Result in up to 7 million veterans losing tax credits to help pay for medical care
  • Cause about 7 percent of veterans to lose access to care for opioid or other substance abuse problems.

According to The Washington Post (June 30, 2017), the Director of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) indicated, “DAV is carefully monitoring how changes to the Affordable Care Act could impact ill and injured veterans who served and sacrificed for our nation,’ said Executive Director Garry Augustine. “VA’s budget this year is already insufficient to meet all the requirements Congress has placed on the department to care for our nation’s ill and injured veterans. Any additional demand on the system may aggravate the current fiscal constraints and effect the delivery of care to millions of veterans who use and rely on VA.”

He concluded with this forceful warning: “We will not idly sit by while political posturing threatens to jeopardize the health of our nation’s heroes.”

Florida and Indian River County

Still, the bill does disproportionately affect elderly Americans, as well.  The Congressional Budget Office found that about 450,000 Floridians between 50 and 64 would have some the highest increases in their premiums among those in the individual marketplace with the Republican plan.  This number of seniors is more seniors than any other state.  According to Florida’s AARP state director, “We’ve been struck by how the healthcare plan would affect Floridians in an outsized way.  This is because insurance companies would be able to charge their oldest members up to five times as much as the youngest members.

A recent analysis from the Kaiser Foundation found the following financial effects for Indian River County that has an average age of 51:

Indian River County (TCPalm, June 27, 2017)

Age Income Premium change Tax credit change
27 30K -$400 $110
50K -$290 $0
60K -$290 0
40 30K $310 -$310
50K $0 $0
60K $0 $0
60 30K $2,960 $330
50K $7,760 -$4,470
60K $3,290 $0

An editorial in the TCPalm on March 10, 2017, noted about the ACHA, “The GOP-majority House committee approved the American Health Care Act without even knowing how much it would cost or its impact on health coverage. Not only is that the height of hypocrisy, but failure to fully understand the economic and health care consequences of the bill is reckless….The Republican plan is certain to reduce overall coverage, result in higher deductibles and phase out Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.”

The Commonwealth fund estimates the State of Florida faces the potential loss of $31.4 billion in Medicaid funds through 2026 under the proposed Senate bill.  The Urban Institute estimates that more than 1.5 million Floridians wouldn’t have coverage by 2022 if the Senate bill replaces the Affordable Care Act.

Retiring Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen from Miami-Dade, speaking in all candor noted, “Despite amendments and changes, the AHCA still fails to provide for the needs of my constituents…I will not support a bill that has the potential to severely harm the health and lives of people in South Florida and therefore I remain steadfast in my commitment to vote NO on the AHCA.

Ros-Lehtinen specifically singled out the new revisions to the bill for denunciation, adding that “the recent addition of further funds to high risk pools continues to be inadequate and fails to cover those who need it most. If enacted, the older and poorer South Floridians will be worse off and will find it more difficult to obtain quality healthcare. My constituents should not have to take a step backward in their ability to obtain treatment for any illness and thus, I will vote NO.”

The bill’s consequences for Indian River County and all of Florida are clear: too many citizens will lose insurance and there will be less funding to help veterans, the poor, and elderly with their healthcare.  The Democrats of Indian River County work to keep healthcare available for our seniors and working families.