The House continues to consider legislation to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The American Health Care Act (AHCA) proposes not only to make major changes to the insurance coverage provisions of the ACA—eliminating the individual and employer mandate, premium tax credits, and cost-sharing subsidies—but also to fundamentally restructure the Medicaid program.
The Sisters of Charity Health System maintains its opposition to the AHCA, legislation that would lead to the loss of health coverage for 24 million people. The AHCA would impose major structural changes and funding limits to the Medicaid program, disrupting coverage for some of our nation's most vulnerable populations. The legislation also would replace current subsidies for coverage under the ACA with tax credits that will disproportionately exclude the poor, the sick and older Americans from affordable coverage.
Last week, House leadership and the administration renewed discussions on ways to move the bill forward after pulling it from the floor in late March. Unfortunately, those discussions are centered around changes to the current bill that would make coverage even less accessible and affordable. Those changes include measures that would lead to higher premiums for those with pre-existing and chronic conditions; the loss of essential health benefits such as prescription drug coverage, maternity care, mental health services and substance abuse treatment; and removal of the restriction on annual and lifetime caps, allowing insurance companies to limit the amount they will pay for covered services.
The Sisters of Charity Health System strongly supports the Catholic Health Association’s Vision for U.S. Health Care, which calls for health care to be available and accessible to everyone, paying special attention to poor and vulnerable individuals. Radically restructuring the Medicaid program—with per capita caps or block grants—fundamentally undermines coverage for more than 70 million poor and vulnerable children, pregnant women, elderly and disabled individuals in our nation. Federal Medicaid funding caps simply shift the cost burden onto local and state governments, providers and individual beneficiaries, ultimately leading to the loss of Medicaid coverage for millions of individuals.
We strongly encourage Congress to consider the impact this ‘replacement’ bill will have on our country’s low-income and most vulnerable residents—and that the proposed changes are moving in the wrong direction.
We stand ready to work with all members of Congress to improve the availability, affordability, coverage and quality of our health care system in ways that do not harm those who need our help and support.