‘World’s greatest health care plan for 2017?’

Not even in the slightest


Take from the poor and give to the rich. That’s how the saying goes, right? 

Well, that’s the locution the GOP seems to have instilled in the forefront of their agenda for years, evidenced by their constant steadfast pursuit to cut taxes on the most wealthy individuals in the country. Their health care proposal, - which was kept under lock-and-key for two months until finally rolled out on March 6 - is officially dubbed the “World’s Greatest Healthcare Plan for 2017”. However, the details of the proposal are more consumer-unfriendly than anyone could have anticipated. 

For two months, congressional Democrats combined with citizens (across party lines) around the country demanded to see a health care replacement bill from congressional Republicans. And for two months, Republicans talked a big game about how their abstract plan, will one, alleviate the problems with the Affordable Care Act, and two, provide “access” to a quality provider. The key word there of course is access - which is defined as only the ‘opportunity’ to benefit from something. Intrinsically, you are not guaranteed squat. 

To illustrate this, think about how we all have the ‘access’ to purchase a lake house right off the shore of Chelan. Oh, you don’t have the money to afford it, too bad. Thus, the quality of care you receive will be determined on the amount of money you have. No wonder the draft was kept out of the light of day for so long. 

Aside from the obvious issues with “access” predominantly, the bill disadvantages the poor, old and sick. I’m no expert, but doesn’t that seem mind-numbing. Why create a healthcare system that impedes the people that need it most?

After skimming through the 120-odd page document, I can already see a myriad of problems with the overall proposal. I’m sure more will come out as reporters, the rest of Congress and policy experts examine the document with a fine tooth comb. 

Let’s start first with the tax breaks. 

As it is proposed, the ‘World’s Greatest Healthcare Plan’ will give $275 billion in tax breaks for the top 4.4 percent (or people earning $250,000 a year or more) and over $100 billion in tax cuts to insurers and drug companies over the next 10 years. According to a report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities the plan would also “shift an estimated $370 billion in Medicaid costs to states over the next 10 years, effectively ending the ACA Medicaid expansion for 11 million people, while also harming tens of millions of additional seniors, people with disabilities and children and parents who rely on Medicaid today.”  I guess we have to pay for our ludicrous defense and military spending somehow. 

The bill will also defund Planned Parenthood so that no federal funding can be given to a health care provider that administers abortions other than those done in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. Which, guess what, is Planned Parenthood. It is important to point out though that Planned Parenthood does not use federal funding for abortions, because that is already against the law. It turns out that the majority of funding comes through medicaid reimbursements for preventive care and Title X. Also, abortions are only a fraction of the services Planned Parenthood offer. The majority of things they provide are life-saving cancer screenings, HIV and other STD testing, birth control, condoms and other contraceptives and overall sex education. 

According to a Ways and Means Committee summary on March 6, the proposal also halts spending federal tax subsidies on health care plans that include abortion. This would ultimately choke out insurance companies that provide coverage for abortions, making it difficult to afford the discouraging premiums in a limited market. As a result, I expect a lot more unsafe abortions (meaning those carried out either by persons lacking the necessary skills or in an environment that does not conform to minimal medical standards, or both) to occur. Numbers ranged from 200,000 to 1.2 million per year in the 1950’s and 1960’s before Roe vs. Wade. 

In a report posted on the National Library of Medicine Lisa B Haddad, MD, MA, said there are around 20 million unsafe abortions worldwide and “some 68,000 women die as a result, making it one of the leading causes of maternal mortality (13%). Of the women who survive, 5 million will suffer long-term health complications. Unsafe abortions are thus a pressing issue.” She goes on to state that the primary preventive methods for unsafe abortions are less restrictive abortion laws and greater contraceptive use. Both are likely to dwindle in the GOP plan. 

The individual and employer mandates in the ACA are eliminated. Without a requirement for individuals to carry a form of health insurance, the insurance markets are sure to collapse as healthier consumers are certain to drop their coverage without the risk of a financial penalty. 

It almost begs the question, do Republicans understand how healthcare works? This is even a bigger question when you examine House Speaker, Paul Ryan’s latest comments on March 9 where he characterized the ACA as being in a ‘death spiral’. “The fatal conceit of Obamacare,” Ryan said in a press briefing, “is that young and healthy people are going into the market and pay for the older, sicker people,”

With all do respect sir, that is literally how insurance works. Life, home, auto, fire, flood, that is how insurance is run. And here I thought you were supposed to be an expert. Allow me to fill you in, “insurance,” according to the Insurance Institute of Michigan, “basically involves a group of people agreeing to share risks.” 

The real ‘death spiral’ will occur when young and healthier individuals drop their coverage, leaving the sick, poor and old who need the coverage to pay disgustingly high and ever-increasing premiums. 

Who knew healthcare could be so complicated? 


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher or NCW Media as a whole. 


Zach Johnson can be reached at lcmeditor@gmail.com or (509) 682-2213.

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