On January 19, Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) voted against legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which was enacted into law last March. The Patients’ Rights Repeal Act was approved by a vote of 245-189. All House Republicans voted “Yes” to repeal this life-saving law.
“The health insurance reform law is already benefitting families, seniors and small businesses up and down the Central Coast and across the country,” said Capps. “This effort to repeal the whole law, even as it’s still being implemented, is shortsighted and a political distraction. We should keep our focus on getting our economy back on track, addressing the housing crisis and creating jobs.”
During the floor debate, Capps told the story of one of her constituents, Gwendolyn Strong, to illustrate the life-changing impact of the implementation of the critical consumer protections included in the Affordable Care Act. Bill and Victoria Strong’s daughter Gwendolyn was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) at six months old. Before reform her parents lived in fear that she would reach her lifetime coverage limit and then be denied insurance due to her pre-existing condition. The elimination of lifetime caps has given the Strongs peace of mind—they are guaranteed Gwendolyn will receive the care she needs and their family is protected from bankruptcy. But repeal would put this family back at risk for losing their coverage and potential bankruptcy.
Blanket repeal of the legislation would have numerous negative effects, including:
• Putting Insurance Companies, Not Individuals, Back in Charge of Health Care: Repeal would eliminate a host of consumer protections already enjoyed by Americans across the country. This includes doing away with bans on discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, eliminating the ban on annual and lifetime coverage benefit limits, removing provisions that prohibit insurers from dropping a client once they get sick, cancelling the requirement that insurance companies spend 80-85% of consumers’ premium dollars on benefits, and taking away the ability of young adults to stay on their parents’ coverage through their 26th birthday, something over 200,000 of them have done in California already.
• Weakening Medicare: Repeal would take away new benefits for Medicare recipients and weaken Medicare as a whole. For example, the Affordable Care Act started the process of closing the dreaded “donut hole,” which affects seniors in the Medicare Part D program. Because of health reform, last year, seniors who fell into the “donut hole” all received a one-time, tax free $250 rebate check to help them pay for their medications, and this year they will get 50% discount on brand name drugs. However, repeal would again leave these seniors essentially uncovered for their necessary prescription drugs. Repeal would also take away new preventative service benefits, including access to preventative screenings like colonoscopies and mammograms without any out of pocket costs, and access to a free physical each year. Moreover, Medicare will be weakened. The Affordable Care Act extended the solvency of Medicare by an estimated 12 years. However, repeal would accelerate the insolvency of Medicare.
• Increasing the Deficit: According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, repeal would increase the deficit by $230 billion over ten years, and over $1 trillion in the next decade. Repeal is not paid for and will directly raise our national debt.
• Harming local businesses: Repeal would take away tax credits that are currently going to small businesses. The Affordable Care Act provides small businesses employing twenty five or fewer workers tax credits of up to 35% to help cover the cost of providing their employees with health insurance. Furthermore, many local employers, including Agilent Technologies Inc and Allergen Inc, have received financial assistance to continue to provide health insurance to early retirees through the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program. This program, which helps retirees not yet eligible for Medicare remain insured, would be completely eliminated with repeal, causing many companies to drop this benefit.
Earlier this week, the Democratic leadership of the Energy and Commerce Committee released district specific numbers to convey the effects of health care repeal locally. Repealing the health care law would have a host of negative consequences in the 23rd district of California, including:
• Allowing insurance companies to deny coverage to 106,000 to 280,000 individuals, including 8,000 to 37,000 children, with pre-existing conditions.
• Rescinding consumer protections for 350,000 individuals who have health insurance through their employer or the market for private insurance.
• Eliminating health care tax credits for up to 16,200 small businesses and 143,000 families.
• Increasing prescription drug costs for 8,800 seniors who hit the Part D drug “donut hole” and denying new preventive care benefits to 92,000 seniors.
• Increasing the costs of early retiree coverage for up to 8,000 early retirees.
• Eliminating new health care coverage options for 4,800 uninsured young adults.
• Increasing the number of people without health insurance by 86,000 individuals.
• Increasing the costs to hospitals of providing uncompensated care by $28 million annually.
A copy of the report is available here (PDF).