On May 4, the House of Representatives narrowly voted 217-213 to pass the American Health Care Act (AHCA), a bill to repeal and replace parts of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. The AHCA is the second, more conservative, iteration of the long-promised Obamacare replacement, and comes more than a month after its predecessor faced stiff opposition from some conservative Republicans who said it was too similar to Obamacare. If signed into law, it will mark a major legislative victory for President Donald J. Trump and the Republican Party.
What does the bill mean?
The AHCA fulfills many Republican lawmakers’ promises to undo major parts of former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law. The bill:
- Eliminates the “individual mandate,” the part of Obamacare that taxes those who don’t have insurance in order to ensure everyone is covered.
- Requires people to have “continuous coverage,” and imposes a 30 percent surcharge on insurance premiums for people whose coverage lapses for more than 63 days in a single year.
- Cuts Medicaid funding, a program that covers medical bills for those with very low incomes and people with disabilities, by $880 billion over the next 10 years. It also ends Medicaid expansion by 2020.
- Cuts $300 billion in taxes for wealthy people by repealing a tax increase originally included in Obamacare on the investments of high-income people.
- Allows states to waive parts of Obamacare, including the requirement that insurance companies don’t charge people more because of a pre-existing condition. However, insurance providers would only be allowed to charge those people more if a state has another way to help them pay.
Does it really make sexual assault a pre-existing condition?
Some of the bill’s critics have claimed it would make sexual assault and domestic violence pre-existing conditions. Several blogs, including Bustle, Mic and the Huffington Post, claimed one portion of the AHCA, the MacArthur-Meadows amendment, would make victims of those crimes vulnerable to denied coverage or increased cost. However, as the Washington Post reported, almost all states have laws protecting victims of sexual assault and domestic violence from discrimination. The amendment does not include any references to sexual assault or domestic violence, and would not allow sexual assault or domestic violence to be classified as pre-existing conditions.
What does this mean for Loyola students?
According to Loyola bursar John Campbell, Loyola requires all full-time students to have health insurance. Last semester, only 1,835 students were enrolled under Loyola’s student health plan, according to Campbell. Like the last version of the bill, that number will likely not be affected by this legislation. The bill retains Obamacare’s rule that people can stay on their parents’ private insurance plan until age 26, so many students who aren’t covered by the university’s plan likely won’t be affected either. However, some low-income students or those on Obamacare could end up paying more for insurance if they lose coverage or their premiums go up due to passage of the AHCA.
What happens next?
The AHCA now moves on to the Senate, where it is expected to face opposition from both sides of the aisle: Senate Democrats are firmly against it, and several Republican senators are opposed as well.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said he doesn’t support the bill in its current form, citing its deep Medicaid cuts and lack of protection for drug addicts.
“I have concerns that this bill does not do enough to protect Ohio’s Medicaid expansion population, especially those who are receiving treatment for heroin and prescription drug use,” read a statement on Portman’s Twitter.
The bill will likely see changes, particularly regarding Medicaid cuts, if it is to be passed in the Senate. Republicans have a 52-48 advantage there, which means they can’t lose more than two votes if they want the bill to pass.