Last week, Senate Republicans introduced the Better Care Reconciliation Act, their plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. The Senate’s bill has been heavily criticized since its release, and for good reason. Analysts have said that it would cause millions of people to lose healthcare while also providing tax cuts to the country’s wealthiest citizens.
On Monday, a group of 40 prominent economists — including six Nobel Prize winners — sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell begging him and his colleagues to focus on improving the ACA instead of completely repealing it.
The letter began with an admission that the ACA is not perfect. However, the economists also pointed out that the Better Care Reconciliation Act does nothing to solve the problems created by the ACA.
‘But the Senate bill, crafted in secret and released without hearings, addresses none of these concerns. Rather, the Senate bill would narrow coverage, and by driving relatively healthy people from the market, raise premiums for those who remain.’
They then went on to outline the specific problems they see with the bill. First, it would “take coverage away entirely from 23 million Americans and narrow coverage for millions more.”
‘Based on our reading of the bill, we believe that the Better Care Reconciliation Act would reduce coverage nearly as much as the House bill that the Congressional Budget Office estimated would take coverage away entirely from 23 million Americans and narrow coverage for millions more. At a time when economic change is making life more difficult for all but the relatively well-to- do, denying people to access health insurance is a giant step in the wrong direction.’
The bill would also lead to increased out-of-pocket costs, especially for people who are considered “less healthy.”
‘The Senate bill will expose millions to increased out-of-pocket health care costs. It would base tax credits on a plan with greatly increased cost sharing and deductibles that could run to $12,000 per family or more. Far from improving Obamacare, the Senate bill would reduce assistance for the millions of people who buy coverage through the state and federal marketplaces. Many now eligible for tax credits would be denied them entirely. States would be allowed to opt out of regulations that allow less healthy people to buy insurance at reasonable rates.’
Finally, the economists addressed the fact that the people who would benefit most from the Better Care Reconciliation Act would be “upper income tax filers.”
‘The savings from slashing health subsidies and coverage would go largely to bestowing tax cuts on upper income tax filers. The richest 0.1 percent of tax filers would receive tax cuts averaging over $200,000 per return.’
The letter ended with a call for Congress to “work on legislation to improve the health delivery system, in general, and The Affordable Care Act, in particular.”
While they would be wise to do so, it seems unlikely that McConnell and other Senate Republicans will heed the warning of these 40 economists. However, if they continue to push this bill as is, they’re going to be met with a lot of opposition, some of which is coming from other conservatives. Five Republican Senators have already said they will not support the bill: Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), and Dean Heller (R-Nevada).
Maybe McConnell and his cronies will finally listen to reason after their bill is shot down by the people who are supposed to be on their side.
Featured image via Mark Wilson/Getty Images.