Senate Health Care Bill Concerns D.C. Health Exchange Leader

by: James Wright Special to the AFRO jwright@afro.com
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The Senate is considering “The Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017” that would gut much of Obamacare. According to the latest score of the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, this legislation would leave 22 million Americans uninsured by 2026.

While many Republicans want to repeal Obamacare, they are having problems convincing the American people that giving the states more control over who can be covered while watering down taxpayer dollars for Medicaid and giving tax breaks to large insurance companies and corporations while ending the individual mandate that every American citizen have health insurance is a better way.

A Black patient receiving medical attention. (Courtesy photo)

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced a delay in the August recess on July 11. It is believed that McConnell doesn’t have the 50 votes necessary to pass the health care bill because of serious concerns by conservatives and some moderates in the Republican ranks. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said on the July 9 airing of CBS show Face the Nation, “In my view the bill is probably already dead.”

While Mila Kofman, executive director of D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority, isn’t a politician, she likes McCain’s sentiments. “I don’t know what the amended bill will look like,” Kofman told the AFRO, talking about the revisions to the legislation. “The bill that was introduced was analyzed by the Congressional Budget Office and it estimated that premiums would increase and coverage would decrease. If the Senate bill repeals Obamacare it would eliminate protections for consumers, also.”

The District’s health care exchange is so highly regarded that Massachusetts has asked for its help in upgrading their software and operations.

Kofman said that the Senate bill would charge senior citizens five times more than they are paying under Obamacare and that the bill would eliminate the pre-existing clause that citizens cannot be denied coverage because of an illness. She noted that during the open-enrollment season under Obamacare, anyone who is eligible can sign up for health insurance but if the Senate bill is law, that may not be an easy for many Americans.

“For example, if you are 60 years old, you pay 9.5 percent of your income on premiums but if the Senate bill becomes law, the percentage will go up to 16.2 percent,” she said. “For many people, that is unaffordable.”

Kofman said that District residents will be affected if the current Senate bill passes. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, at a news conference July 11, he would unveil a revised version of the Senate’s health care bill on July 13 and have the Senate vote on it by next week. “D.C. residents aren’t immune from any of this,” she said. “It will be devastating for residents, small businesses with older workers, and people in general will pay premiums at higher rates. People who are on Medicaid will be adversely impacted.”

Kofman said that 96 percent of all residents have some form of health insurance, which is one of the highest rates in the country for a state-level jurisdiction. “Even before Obamacare, the District has had a relatively low uninsured rate historically,” she said. “That is because we have one of the most expansive Medicaid plans in the country and many small businesses have affordable health care plans.

There is also coverage for veterans and for federal government and District government employees. Many large companies in the city offer their employees’ health care, also.”

Kofman won’t speculate on what the city will do specifically if the Senate bill passes.

“That’s hard to know,” she said. “But a lot of people will lose coverage, premiums will skyrocket and the emergency room visits will increase and that will make health care more expensive in the city.”

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