EDITORIAL: Health care bill a step backward


Millions of Americans could lose their insurance over the next decade, and many may face higher costs for health care coverage if a “repeal and replace” bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last week  makes it to the finish line in its present form.

We hope it won’t, and we’re not alone. From every indication — including Republican voices in the U.S. Senate — the House-passed bill needs work. Republicans in the House rushed to pass a health care bill Thursday without waiting for a full analysis of its costs and impacts from the Congressional Budget Office.

We’re concerned about the House’s hasty passage of a bill that may negatively impact the oldest, youngest and poorest among us.

Leading up to the passage of Obamacare in 2010, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made an often mocked statement that, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it — away from the fog of the controversy.”

In 2013, NBC’s Meet the Press host David Gregory pressed Pelosi on the remark.

“Isn’t that really the problem, as you look back on it?” Gregory said. “That there was such a rush to get this done — no Republicans voting for it — and now there are unintended effects of this that were foreseen at the time, that you couldn’t know the impact of, and that now this is coming home to roost?”

We wonder, with Democrats showing united opposition to the American Health Care Act and GOP leaders hurrying through the process, whether the GOP wants to be answering that same question down the road.

The bill passed by just four votes in the U.S. House, 217-213, with every Democrat and 20 Republicans voting no.

When the Congressional Budget Office analyzed an earlier version of the bill, it estimated that 24 million Americans would lose their insurance between now and 2026.

Additionally, the CBO said the act would cut Medicaid funding by $880 billion — about 25 percent — over the next 10 years.

Consider who is covered by Medicaid in America today:

In addition, millions of Americans with physical impairments and developmental disabilities also receive coverage through Medicaid.

The American Health Care Act also would impose an “age tax,” allowing insurers to charge older adults five times more than others, according to AARP. In addition, the act would reduce tax credits that help the elderly pay for their insurance. That means older Americans could face an increase in annual payments of up to $13,000.

“In addition, the bill now puts at risk the 25 million older adults with pre-existing conditions, such as cancer and diabetes, who would likely find health care unaffordable or unavailable to them,” said AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond.

Wyoming’s lone representative in the House, Republican Liz Cheney, voted in favor of the American Health Care Act on Thursday. Cheney said it “protects people with pre-existing conditions and ensures they cannot be denied coverage.”

While those with pre-existing conditions can’t be denied coverage, they aren’t fully protected under this legislation, since it allows insurance companies to charge much higher rates to those patients.

“Many people with pre-existing conditions will have a hard time maintaining coverage because it just won’t be affordable,” said Larry Levitt, a health insurance expert with the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The American health care system has flaws and needs improvements. While the Affordable Care Act — widely known as Obamacare — addressed some of those issues, it fell short in other areas. However, the health care bill approved last week isn’t the cure, either.

As the bill moves to the U.S. Senate, we encourage Wyoming’s Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso to take the time and work with their colleagues to truly improve health care — and ensure they’re not creating more headaches for Americans who are struggling the most.